Petition against freedom camping proposal

Waverley residents opposed to freedom camping at Rotary Park (from left) Dick Williman, Sharon...
Waverley residents opposed to freedom camping at Rotary Park (from left) Dick Williman, Sharon Weir and Julie Matisoo. Photo: Peter McIntosh.
Residents living beside Rotary Park in Dunedin are the latest up in arms over a council proposal to provide three new freedom camping sites.

The residents say the park could be "taken away from the locals", and become the realm of freedom campers instead of local children.

They have also raised concerns about noise from campers parking close to their homes, and potential damage to reservoirs, a pumping station, and telecommunications equipment at the park.

In response to opposition to proposed camps at Rotary Park, Puddle Alley, near Invermay on the Taieri, and outside the Brighton Surf Life Saving Club, Mayor Dave Cull yesterday promised to consult the public before the council made any decisions.

Late last month council staff proposed the three new sites, as the two at Ocean View and Warrington had reached capacity. The Mosgiel-Taieri Community Board opposed the idea, as did the Saddle Hill Community Board.

Freedom-camping tourism in New Zealand has caused tension as locals deal with overrun campsites, litter and human waste. Ocean View, and particularly Warrington, have sparked complaints from some residents, while others have supported the visitors. Waverley resident Sharon Weir  said  a meeting was held on Wednesday night with about 15 residents, and a petition to oppose the proposal had been started.

The group was concerned freedom camping would interfere with other uses of the park, which included a  children’s play area, picnic area, dog exercise area, and nearby sport fields.

There was a preschool nearby, and there were concerns about an increase of traffic if freedom camping was allowed.

Residents were also concerned the camp would compete with bed and breakfast businesses in the  Waverley/Shiel Hill area, and affect property values.

Asked what she thought the council should do about the freedom camping boom, resident Julie Matisoo said sites to host them should be kept away from urban areas.

Dick Williman, who is involved in the tourism industry, said he was concerned about the effect on tourists who were brought to Rotary Park to see the view up the Otago Harbour.

Mr Cull said a staff report would be presented to the council on June 27.

The report would recommend a special consultative process on whether the current bylaw should be amended to restrict freedom camping to certified self-contained vehicles only, or whether it should continue to make provisions for vehicles not certified as self-contained.

It would also "look at adding a range of further sites where these vehicles could be accommodated". Overcrowding had been a major issue at Warrington and Ocean View, resulting in widespread concern.

"We therefore need to understand from the community whether, firstly, they think the city should continue to make provisions for non self-contained freedom campers at all, and, if so, at what other sites around the city could these types of freedom campers be accommodated to ease the pressure at Warrington and Ocean View," Mr Cull said.

If the council approved the report,  staff would complete public consultation, including hearings if required, and report back to the council before the start of the 2017-18 camping season.

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