Camping trial stopped

The Dunedin City Council has stopped a trial of a new freedom camping area in the city in its tracks, concerned instead of sharing the load, it may add to the problem.

A full council meeting yesterday debated a staff proposal to consider freedom camping at a car park next to Bayfield Park and Bayfield High School.

But ongoing issues at a site at Macandrew Bay helped make seven of the 13 councillors present wary enough of the idea to vote against it.

Macandrew Bay was among three sites designated for overnight stops by freedom campers in vehicles without toilets.

It was supposed to cater for up to five vehicles each night, but more than 15 have stayed in the area on some nights.

Residents had complained about freedom campers pitching tents, using the area's public toilets to wash dishes, clothes and themselves, and defecating in private gardens.

In June, the council asked staff to consult on using the Bayfield Park site to alleviate pressure at Macandrew Bay.

Just two submissions were received, though two more came late, and were yesterday accepted by the council.

One came from Ariki Athletics and Harriers Club life member Wayne Allen, who turned up the council meeting yesterday and said children used the nearby Bayfield Inlet to learn canoeing skills, including flipping over in the water.

''The last thing we want to find is certain objects, and paper, in the water.''

Mr Allen said the club, and the Bayfield Park Community Sports Trust, which ran the Guthrie Pavilion by the proposed site, was ''totally opposed'' to the trial.

Bayfield High School also sent a written submission, which said the car park was used a pick-up and drop-off point for pupils, and was not a suitable place for freedom campers to be.

Toilets were 100m away, and campers were likely to use a nearby bush area on cold, wet nights.

That would be ''hazardous and completely unacceptable for students'', who regularly cleaned up the bush area, the park and the inlet.

Cr Andrew Whiley moved the trial be abandoned.

Last Monday morning, were eight vehicles without toilets, and two with, were parked at the Macandrew Bay site where just five were allowed.

People were choosing not to follow the rules, Cr Whiley said.

Cr Richard Thomson disagreed, and said the council had an obligation to reduce the burden on Macandrew Bay.

A Bayfield site may help, and he was keen to discover, through the trial, if it would.

Mayor Dave Cull said he did not think ''a problem shared is a problem halved''.

''I think it will be a problem doubled.''

The motion to abandon the proposal was carried seven votes to six.

Bayfield principal Judith Forbes said she was pleased the council had listened to the community, and acted.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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