Freedom campers speak out

Timothy Stewart says he complies with Freedom Camping restrictions, but still gets abuse from Coast residents.

Recently, after repeated abuse from local residents, Timothy Stewart installed security cameras on the caravan that has been his home for around eight months.

Timothy, who describes himself as “a necessity camper”, stays on the Hibiscus Coast to be near his children. One of the spots the watersport enthusiast likes is Orewa Reserve car park, but he says he abides by the No Camping or Sleeping Overnight signs. The caravan he lives in is self-contained, and Timothy says he cleans up other people’s rubbish and dog poo.

Despite this, he has been called a liar, had the vehicle egged and dented, and confronted behaviour that he found intimidating.

“The Baby Boomers are the worst,” he says. “Young people are more live and let live.”

He says people are getting it wrong. “I go elsewhere overnight, but if I return early in the morning, people claim I have been there all night.”

He admits to having “run ins” with Auckland Council including recently when he was approached by enforcement officers acting on a complaint made by the public. “I was legally parked in Victor Eaves Reserve at 3pm having a cup of tea,” he says.

Timothy, who has lived in Orewa since 1982, attended meetings on the Freedom Camping bylaw and agrees that rules are needed. “Before the signs went up, there were way too many campervans in the carparks, and tourists were taking advantage and causing problems,” he says. “However, I’m not sure why the rules don’t seem to apply to the articulated trucks that take up 12 spaces in the Orewa carpark overnight!”

He says as summer approaches, he has been getting more abuse, and installed cameras so he can provide evidence to Police.

Meanwhile 93-year-old George Mclean, who has lived in his campervan for 30 years, says he has had no problem with the locals. But unlike Timothy, he is not happy about the Council restricting overnight camping.

George travels widely in a vehicle he describes as “my five star motel” and says he visits the Coast a couple of weeks a year to see family, staying at Orewa and Hatfields Beach.

“I don’t see why Council kicked us out of Orewa carpark,” he says. “What harm are we doing?”

Auckland Council staff are working on new Freedom Camping Bylaw proposals after the first attempt failed. The bylaw, which must be in place by October 2022, aims to enable proactive management and enforcement of freedom camping.

Council’s regulatory compliance manager, Steve Pearce, says in the meantime, enforcement will be in place.

“This summer we received financial assistance from the Responsible Camping Fund so that we can have additional compliance officers as a regular presence in Auckland’s popular freedom camping spots, many of which are in Rodney,” he says. “They’ll primarily be educating campers on responsible camping and encouraging them to follow the rules, and will be able to quickly respond to any emerging freedom-camping trends. Our regular compliance teams are also available to support that team and follow-up on more challenging cases. We are careful to make sure that people using locations for legitimate purposes, like parking while enjoying beaches, will not be affected by enforcement action in relation to freedom camping.”

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