Research calls for in-vehicle toilets

The Otago Polytechnic says a lack of public toilets in remote areas is a problem that may be solved by developing portable loos for rental campervans.

In 2012, The Star reported that human faeces were regularly being discovered in the dunes behind Sandfly Bay because there were no public toilets nearby.

At the time, the Dunedin City Council had no funds for building toilets at the site, so the Otago Peninsula Community Board approached the Otago Polytechnic to research a low-cost lavatory for isolated areas.

Nearly two years later, the the results are nearly out and it appears there is no ''magic toilet''.

Otago Polytechnic innovation workspace manager Eva Gluyas said the study re-examined whether human waste on the peninsula was a problem that needed a response.

The study was carried out by the polytechnic at its own expense.

''We determined that whilst there is a health hazard it is pretty marginal. However, the perceived situation and the potential damage to tourism, not to mention that it is pretty disgusting and wholly unacceptable to residents, clearly indicates that there is a need to find a solution,'' Ms Gluyas said.

Future by Design Ltd director Maggie Lawton was contracted by the polytechnic to study the issue.

She found there was not much information available on the scale of the problem but the main contributors were likely to be freedom campers and other tourists in vehicles without self-contained toilets.

Potential solutions, such as low-cost composting toilets and portable loos for vehicles were available but in each case there were issues that needed to be overcome.

''There are many solutions but not one silver bullet,'' she said.

Ms Gluyas said the next step was to try to engage with campervan companies and others in the tourism industry to try to raise enough of a budget to find a solution for the peninsula and many other sites around New Zealand.

The was a commercial opportunity for campervan companies to get involved and help create a market-leading portable toilet for use in their vehicles, she said.

- by Jonathan Chilton-Towle