Pros and cons to councils' decision

Tony Kokshoorn
Tony Kokshoorn
The mayors of Westland and Grey are standing firm on their councils' provision of freedom camping sites, and say they are getting tourists out of the bush and into a toilet.

However, camping ground owners say the free council sites are denting business.

One site at Cobden Beach provides free toilets, showers and rubbish facilities.

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith said freedom campers had been coming to New Zealand "forever'', and did not stay at camping grounds, motels or hotels, but parked wherever there was a gap in the bush.

"Our council took advantage of the Government offer to fund sites.

"In return, we are able to put more stringent bylaws in place. We've already issued some infringements.''

"We are now getting non-self-contained vehicles in one place, where we can clean toilets, pick up rubbish. All funded 100% by Government, nothing by ratepayers. It's a great initiative.''

In Greymouth, Mayor Tony Kokshoorn also backed the policy, but said he had sympathy for camping ground owners.

At present, people could camp anywhere in New Zealand, and it was up to each district to come up with its own rules concerning freedom camping.

Mr Kokshoorn said his council had held public consultation, and received much of feedback from New Zealanders keen to continue camping in a fly tent or camper van.

However, he thought that there should be a country-wide rule, rather than district by district.

"But I definitely have sympathy. I've been working with the owners for years and I've heard the arguments - they pay rates, freedom campers don't.''

He noted that only those with self-contained camper vans could park at the Grey District Council sites, and anyone caught without on-board toilet facilities was fined $200.

However, not all councillors agree. Cr Allan Gibson believed the councils had gone too far.

"Why should we go against business?''

The council was servicing the free sites, cleaning the toilets and picking up rubbish. It was anti-business, Cr Gibson said.

"What disappoints me the most is Government has made freedom camping the norm to the West Coast people.''


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