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Council staff, perhaps expecting a bylaw banning the practice to be passed on Tuesday, worked yesterday to decide how to approach the expected flood of campers this season.
Mayor Dave Cull on Tuesday said he expected the season to be ''mayhem''.
At the meeting, the council voted against a proposed bylaw banning campers in vehicles without toilets.
That makes the city one of the only centres in the South Island not to have banned the practice.
A close vote - eight to six - followed months of work to put together a response to the flood of freedom campers filling sites at Warrington and Ocean View, and the sometimes angry backlash against them.
Warrington resident Rhys Owen has bitterly opposed the town's domain being used for freedom campers, and last year organised a petition against it.
He said yesterday he was ''disgusted with the elected council members that voted against this, thinking they know better than their council staff, their ratepayers and the community, and in fact they think they know more than the rest of the country''.
He described the decision as ''sheer arrogance''.
Mr Owen said the outcomes councillors feared - there were concerns campers would stay in inappropriate spots, hiding from enforcement - had not been experienced in Christchurch or Waitaki, areas that had bylaws banning freedom camping.
Warrington resident Ken McHoull, who has in the past said campers brought vibrancy to the settlement and who put together his own petition in contrast to Mr Owen's, said the campers would be staying in a controlled situation.
If councillors had voted for the bylaw, it would have ''pushed them out into the countryside'', where they would go to the toilet ''anywhere''.
''Now they're in a place where there's toilets.''
Mr McHoull said there was ''a lot of hysteria'' on social media about the issue, which was wrong, and did not help the situation.
Waikouaiti Coast Community Board chairman Alasdair Morrison, who has questioned in the past where campers would go if sites like Warrington were closed, said he had asked for the council to find other areas to add to the two camping sites already in place.
But ''sensible places'' had not been identified.
''We proved that if you have the infrastructure upgraded, then problems like rubbish dumping and pooing in the bushes will largely go away.''
Banning people would not have made them go away, he said.
''It's far better to find other places so it'll take the pressure off Warrington.''
The council should come up with ways to find solutions, like working with private campgrounds, he said.
Council parks and recreation operations manager Jendi Paterson said education and enforcement would continue, as per previous years, to direct visitors to camping grounds and the two sites in the city- Warrington and Ocean View - that catered for non-self-contained campers.
Repair work on a section of the reserve at Warrington was completed yesterday.
''As outlined in the current bylaw, bollards have been installed to separate the Warrington Domain into sectioned off areas for certified self-contained, non-certified self-contained and tents.
''New signs will be installed at Warrington over coming weeks to inform visitors.''