Visitors to the area who are camping for free near local beaches are costing ratepayers dearly, according to the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board.
Over summer, the local board was made aware of up to 27 groups camping on a single night at Arundel Reserve in Orewa – only a few were in vehicles that contained toilet facilities.
A bylaw put in place by the former Rodney District Council states that only self-contained vehicles can camp outside designated campgrounds, on reserve land. Auckland Council is currently developing regulations to contain freedom camping that will apply Auckland-wide, starting with a two-month pilot scheme at 29 sites. Almost half the sites included in the trial are in the Hibiscus Coast and Rodney areas.
Local board chair Julia Parfitt says as well as a loss of car parks, residents have had enough of seeing washing lines strung up at places such as Arundel Reserve and outdoor cooking taking place.
The toilets at Arundel Reserve, located at the northern end of Orewa Beach, had to be fixed several times in recent months because of over-use.
She says the pilot scheme provides enforcement tools. This is why the local board brought it forward.
Signs have gone up at popular freedom camping sites that are on the trial in Orewa, Gulf Harbour, Hatfields Beach, Stanmore Bay and Waiwera. The signs note the need for self-contained vehicles, the length of time freedom campers can stay and the number of car parks available.
Council is also paying for staff to visit the most popular freedom camping sites to enforce the new conditions.
“Ratepayers are losing out twice,” Mrs Parfitt says. “They are paying for enforcement and work on the public toilets, while at the same time losing revenue from Council-owned campgrounds such as the one on Orewa Beach.”
A large number of spaces in the carpark on Orewa Reserve are also being filled with campervans staying overnight.
In addition, people have been camping on the grass there, once the fencing came down to allow overflow parking.
Mrs Parfitt said at last month’s local board meeting that she has discussed the issue with Orewa Surf Club to see if the club sees any value in allocating specific spaces for overnight parking there. “They said five or six car parking spaces would be appropriate,” she says.
Mrs Parfitt says while in some cases the freedom campers are homeless, in this area most are travellers.
Councillor Linda Cooper, chair of the Regulatory Committee, says that the trial, which takes place for two months from February 20, will hopefully reduce the conflict between the needs of freedom campers and residents.
“We want to be welcoming hosts to our visitors. Campers bring an estimated $1.2 million a month into our economy over summer,” she says. “However the influx of freedom campers into hotspots, particularly in north eastern coastal and inner city locations, is creating problems.”
Council proposes using a range of regulatory and non-regulatory approaches to try to move campers around Auckland. This includes making travel planning information readily available and using social media and printed information to inform people about alternative free and paid camping sites. There will also be increased monitoring of toilets and rubbish bins at the subject sites.
A report on the pilot scheme will be presented to Council and will help inform the development of freedom camping policies and regulations for Auckland.
Local sites on the trial
Arundel Reserve, 467 Hibiscus Coast Highway • Gulf Harbour carpark, 1311 Laurie Southwick Parade • Hatfields Beach, 544 Hibiscus Coast Highway • Stanmore Bay, 162 Brightside Rd • Waiwera causeway road reserve, Waiwera