Bay residents voice concerns

There is growing discontent among Macandrew Bay residents about freedom campers.

Residents say as many as 30 vehicles a night have been parked in a trial freedom camping area beside the public toilets and playground, where tents are also being pitched around play equipment.

Campers are ''bird-bathing'' in the public toilet basins and changing outside their vehicles in view of children walking to school, residents say.

Macandrew Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Dave Goodman said many mothers had stopped taking their children to the playground because of campers.

Mr Goodman, who was contracted by the Dunedin City Council to clean the area's public toilets, said he had to double his efforts since the council implemented its freedom camping trial.

Extra use of amenities was not an issue in itself, he said, but many freedom campers were washing in the basins and leaving the tiled floors in flood.

People were becoming wary of taking children into the public toilets because naked campers were often washing or changing inside, he said.

''They call it bird-bathing, using a basin to wash in. I'd never heard of it before,'' Mr Goodman said.

''There is a growing number of residents not happy with what's going on, mainly because of issues with behaviour and hygiene.

''For people in a station wagon or saloon vehicle, to get changed and maintain any degree of modesty is quite difficult, and there has been issues with unclad people running around,'' he said.

The council recently designated three trial areas for freedom campers in non-self-contained vehicles, including Macandrew Bay.

Up to five vehicles were allowed to stay for one night under the trial.

Mr Goodman said there were usually about 15 vehicles with freedom campers parked overnight, and the most he had counted at once was 21.

Other residents claimed to have seen as many as 30 vehicles.

Mr Goodman had counted 11 tents - 10 of which were pitched in the playground.

''It's polarising the community.

''We are not against freedom campers per se, but there's a growing groundswell of people getting their backs up,'' he said.

Macandrew Bay resident Kelli Lamare said she and many others felt invaded.

''There is a handful who don't seem to worry, but a lot of people are not happy.''

Mrs Lamare said she had complained to the council and planned to attend the next Otago Peninsula Community Board meeting on March 6 to raise the issue.

She said her house, like many others, had not been included in a council mail drop in the community proposing the trial, and she missed the opportunity to oppose it.

She was one of the mothers keeping her children away from the playground, and said there had to be a better place for freedom camping in Dunedin.

''Macandrew Bay is a beautiful community and we feel like we've been invaded because of the sheer number of campers. I'm sure they contribute to the wider economy, but I don't think they spend a lot in our neighbourhood.''

- rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

sharing a beautiful community

How wonderful it is that we can share this beautiful part of the country with the visitors to NZ that camp down at Mac Bay. I am yet to see any bad behaviour or an increase in littering around the community. I hope when I travel the world or when my loved ones travel the world, there are beautiful safe communities for us to camp in. 

Create better facilities to accommodate visitors on the Peninsula to keep everyone happy.

Mac Bay campers

I live in Mac Bay and was surprised to hear the Council had done any consultation with the community as I have not heard or seen anything prior to the "Overnight Here" signs going up.

That said, I think sites like these are a good idea and cater for people traveling on a budget and just need a place to stop for the night.

Issues arise when there are not the appropriate facilities in place to cater for the numbers of people staying. I go past several times a day, and there are always more than 5 vehicles overnighting there.

Could the Council mark which 5 spots are designated so once they were full, it was clear to all, who should move on. Tents should not be permitted. This needs to be enforced if sites like these are to work.

There has been an additional rubbish bin placed there, but this is still not enough to stop more litter appearing. More Council supplied bins should be made available (and along the waterfront too where people walk).

The toileting/washing is the biggest issue that I see and particularly as the toliet is not beside where the cars are parking, but is in through the entrance to the community hall used by community groups and the school for assemblies. If this is to remain an overnighting spot, perhaps the Council should put a better facility on the edge of the park with a more accessible toilet and pay- shower. 

I am a mother with 2 young children who use the park and I have not personally seen any bad behaviour from anyone staying there. 

If the numbers are properly monitored and appropriate facilities are put in place, I would love to share the beautiful place I get to live in, with others.    

[Abridged] 

Not in my backyard

Ok, I have been reading peoples posts here, and they are quite sad.

As far as I can tell, people are saying not in my back yard.

Let's see, we have people saying that

- Because of the vistors they aren't getting as much enjoyment from these parks. Come on, visitors are allowed to enjoy the country as well.

- They don't pay rates, they shouldn't get my parks. Come on guys, when you travel out of town, I'm sure you and your children use parks and other rate paid facilities from different regions. If you go overseas, you are using roads, policing, and everything provided by tax payers other than yourself, so this argument fails. 

- They are leaving a mess. Yes, this does sound like an issue, and the council needs to look into addressing the issue of facilities. 

Some brave soul posted that this is the new way of camping and that the community needs to get with the program. True. Apart from the university, what has Dunedin really got going for it. We really need to explour every avenue we have going for us.

We want the benefits visitors bring, the problem is it seems we just don't want them in our neighbourhood. 

Now what needs to be done is investigate why the campers come there. Is it the location, or is it just that there are not another good freedom spots around. If we can determine why they chose to go where they go, the council can design areas with facilities as necessary. Maybe they don't go to Mac Bay for the wonderful friendly people they meet, maybe they just go there because the options of where they can go is just limited and that is one of the few? 

[Abridged] 

Camping

This site is too small and too public. The locals are understandably becoming annoyed.

The council needs to concider another site that can better cater for the numbers using it, as there seems to be a need.

Some rental companies are hiring out vans and cars that are not suitable for overnight stopping. Shouldn't such vehicals at least have a working toilet?  If they don't have such basics they should be in a camping ground, as they put pressure on the enviroment and public amenities such as those at Mac Bay.

There are a growing number of dump sites being provided for the disposal of camper waste. Maybe an area with a dump site is needed in this general area somewhere. The number of campers disposing of human and domestic waste in an unreasonable way is not a great problem but the problem does unfortunately exist.

These people may well spoil it for the rest of us.

Limited opportunities

"Yes, let's make it easy & pleasant for travellers - but not pay for them!" says lovedunedin.  

Fair comment.  The problem is that at present there are limited opportunities for "freedom campers" to access convenient camping grounds at a fair price.  By all means charge them for use of facilities, and when necessary send security guards to enforce reasonable behaviour - and if it costs us, the ratepayers, to made sure that other ratepayers' lives are not made unpleasant by out of control tourists, I think that's just one of those things.  

Out of any group there will be some louts.  Among the mobile home and camper-van fraternity there are bound to be a few, but mostly they are normal pleasant people who want to have their holiday their way without upsetting anyone.  

As for mothers getting hot and bothered about the frightfulness of their children seeing people getting dressed and undressed, I think this shows an unhealthy attitude to the human body.  In other parts of the world nudity on beaches is no big deal (except for tourists from prudish countries) and people getting changed in a matter-of-fact way, not trying to make a display of themselves, would not get the locals over-heated.  

If parents don't make a big deal out of it their children won't be scarred for life,  though they may giggle a bit because of having already absorbed the idea that nakedness is awfully naughty.

Tourism

Don't treat the tourists as a "mass problem" - that is a terrible way of looking at it. Judge each situation on it's merits.

Dollars for Dunedin

Yes, let's make it easy & pleasant for travellers - but not pay for them! 

In Siena travellers can't even sit down in the piazza. To go to a toilet in Assisi it's money in the slot or go to a cafe as long as you buy a drink first.

Mass tourism has brought mass problems. Word of internet has attracted cheap travellers and they don't always behave responsibly or respectfully to the local community. This happened so some the beautiful Greek Islands - and it destroyed their original character and charm.

 

We don't want a campground

The council doesn't seem to get it.  We don't want our local area to be a campground.  We don't want security guards coming up in the morning and moving people on.  We don't want 25-30 campers here on a hot summer nights when we want to enjoy our own (rate-paid) facilities.  We don't want our kids walking past people getting dressed in the morning, and playing in faeces.

How would the council staff like their street turned into a camp ground?

Council - it's really quite outrageous and disrespectful for the local community.

It's got to stop

This is outrageous. Nip it in the bud or you lose your community.

Nothing is free

"....the vanpacking fraternity cares not one iota for the local Mac Bay community"

Quite right! They obviously don't - they just want a cheap holiday. The only people who benefit are those in the tourist industry, certainly not the locals. 

Same thing happened at Lake Tekapo and they had to stop it.  It was killing the natural beauty of the place - the very thing that brought them there.

Facilities are not free - user pays! 

Don't pay, can't gain

Lovedunedin thinks household ratepayers should not pay for facilities for tourists, who should pay for their own.  True, up to a point, but there is such a thing as investment - pay a little to gain a lot.  "Or," Lovedunedin goes on, "business people - they take the profits."  They also employ workers, and the busier the business the more staff they need.  Those workers need food, they need their cars to be serviced, they buy clothes and go to movies.  The motor mechanics need food, clothes - get the picture?  The money goes round and round, but if the money does not come in from elsewhere it only goes round and round in Dunedin, and every time it goes round the government takes GST so there is less and less to go round.

Let's make it easy and pleasant for all travellers, no matter what they travel in, to leave some of their out-of-town dollars behind for the good of us all. 

Nothing is free

Why should household ratepayers pay for facilities for tourists?  Let the tourists pay.

Or business people - they take the profits.

Freedom camping is here

The DCC is stuck in an old model of tourism.  Anyone with a functioning eye can see how many camper vans there are around.  This is (surprise!) different from ten or even five years ago but the DCC still seems to have the same outlook, which is make them do something else.  That'll work, yeah. 
These people have flexible schedules - it's easy to get them to stay an extra night or two, and what they are saving on accommodation they spend elsewhere. Then they send the photos all over the world - heard of the internet?  Heard of word of mouth advertising? Apparently it is more influential than formal advertising campaigns. 
We should be going gangbusters to address the obvious demand for places to park, wash and go to the loo.  What about trialling sites using relocatable ablutions blocks to learn more about what these travelers want and what they don't before investing in permanent facilities?  Because it is clear that the demand has been drastically underestimated. 
We need to move with the times instead of imagining that by making freedom camping impossible in our city we will still get their food, tours and shopping money.  Perhaps the idea that we can thereby force them to book into a new accommodation block, believing the fiction of "build it and they will come".  Didn't work with the last great project...

Responsibilty

If we are to accept the tourism dollar from our tourists, whatever mode of tourism they care to take part in, we have a responsibilty to provide facilities for them.

If Mac Bay is to be a freedom camping area then let's provide showers and toilets and an area where they can camp. Either that or we have a responsibility to the community to enforce the rules.

Let's make it easy to visit Dunedin. There are no benefits without repsonsibilities so let's face up to it and be enabling rather than prohibitive in our approach.

 

Mac Bay is not free

I pass this site regularly and cannot understand how the council have allowed this to happen every summer night in the middle of a formerly quiet residential area. It's turning into a mini free festival there and there dosen't seem to be anyone to control the growing numbers of campers.

Vanpackers

DCC, I understand you established the rules governing how many, and how, these freedom campers could enjoy this opportunity. Is it to much to ask that they're enforced?

This area is not a camping ground, yet it appears that's exactly what it's morphing into. Please understand that the vanpacking fraternity cares not one iota for the local Mac Bay community, nor the impact their presence has on that community. So, I ask you to review who is taking advantage of this chance to freedom camp to ensure the numbers are within the guidelines you've established. 

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