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It has not taken long for the issue of freedom camping in Dunedin to reach a certain level of calm and sensibility.

Barely two years after the Otago Daily Times reported on the "growing resistance to the rising tide of freedom campers" in the city, and there were warnings of "mayhem" when the Dunedin City Council voted (narrowly) against a proposed bylaw banning campers in vehicles without toilets, it seems the situation has cooled.

The budget-conscious visitors are, by and large, following the rules, local authorities are better equipped to provide for them, and the numbers are stacking up.

The DCC this week revealed more than 30,000 freedom campers visited Dunedin from November to June, spending about $3.4million.

Given the number of campers, it is perhaps surprising just 682 infringement notices were issued. That suggests the use of MBIE-funded rangers to improve awareness of the city's freedom camping rules, and installing extra facilities, has been a success.

So, too, must the council feel it was right in establishing the temporary freedom camping site at Thomas Burns St to alleviate the pressure over the summer months.

That was a decision ripe for attack - Dunedin drivers are getting very sensitive to losing car parking options, and existing camping grounds argue they have lost business - but having the new site to go with the two other non-self-contained freedom camping spots, Ocean View and Warrington, was clearly effective.

And, as The Star reported, it has not really cost the ratepayer anything to help freedom campers both feel welcome and stick to the rules.

The council spent about $115,000 on providing direct services to freedom campers, and recouped $105,000 from infringement notices.

Freedom camping, at least in these numbers, is a relatively new phenomenon. But it is not going away, and Dunedin appears to have done an admirable job tackling the issue.

The situation seems to be at a similar point in Central Otago, where enhanced management of freedom camping - monitoring sites, educating campers and providing more facilities - has led to a significant drop in infringements.

The test, for both Dunedin and Central, will be if this trend can be maintained while (if?) even more campers arrive and uncertainty surrounds funding of these initiatives in the future.

Meanwhile, "ground zero" for freedom camping, the Queenstown Lakes district, has its own challenges.

It brought in a raft of changes last summer - banning camping at two popular sites but boosting the number of sites for tents and caravans at existing camping grounds, and investigating options for new sites - and also leaned heavily on ambassadors to educate incoming campers.

There has been more grumbling in the resort, notably from existing holiday park owners who have alleged some freedom campers are using nefarious tactics to make use of council-provided services then camping illegally, and it may take some more time before Queenstown reaches a state of freedom camping nirvana.



when summer arrives then numbers turn up. then the mess starts....


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