Freedom campers down by half

The double whammy of Covid-19 and unsettled weather has led to a sharp drop in the number of freedom campers visiting Dunedin sites so far this summer.

Dunedin City Council figures for the freedom camping season so far show the number of campers in the Dunedin area in November and December was half that of the previous season.

Overall numbers dropped from 2999 in November and 3527 in December, 2019, to 1479 in November and 1692 in December, 2020.

Council Parks and Recreation planner Stephen Hogg said while there were a small number of international visitors remaining in the country on extended visas, the vast majority of this season’s freedom campers were Kiwis.

This had altered the pattern of where campers were staying, as New Zealanders were generally more keen on camping near beaches than in an urban site such as the Thomas Burns car park.

The top three sites remained Warrington Domain — down from 927 campers in December, 2019, to 538 in December, 2020; Thomas Burns car park — down from 1111 in December, 2019, to 242 in December, 2020; and Ocean View Reserve — down from 356 in December, 2019, to 278 in December, 2020.

The number of complaints and infringements upheld against campers was also down, by about 19%, Mr Hogg said.

"It is pleasing to see that problems are down, which may be due in part to our community rangers having more time to spend with people and providing detailed information and advice," he said.

"Early intervention and good advice helps save on infringements."

Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall said, while the Ocean View Reserve site remained popular, there had been no problems.

"People travelling in well-maintained campers are great," he said.

"There have been quite a few locals out talking with campers at sites and lay-bys between Brighton and Taieri Mouth, which has been good to see."

Mr Hogg said the rangers would gather data from freedom campers throughout the season, which would continue until April-May, and the information on this unusual summer season would be included in a report to council later in the year.


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