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Freedom camping complaints plummet in Whangarei

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Nearly 3000 freedom camper information packs and 520 site visits later, Whangarei’s responsible freedom camping volunteer ambassadors have hung up their high-viz vests for the summer, satisfied they contributed to a much-improved peak freedom camping season for residents.

Complaints to Council’s system from the ten freedom camping spots monitored by the ambassadors from 20 December 2018 to 10 February 2019 plummeted from 55 last season to seven throughout this summer’s ambassador operation and peak freedom camping period.

"The volunteer ambassadors comprised a significant part of Council’s multi-faceted approach to freedom camping management this summer, and appear to have made a big difference," says Whangarei Mayor, Sheryl Mai.

"Easily recognizable in their high-viz vests, these community-minded locals visited Whangarei’s ten most popular and populated freedom camping spots every evening during the 52-day operation period, to hand out information packs, answer questions, collect data and guide freedom campers to appropriate behaviour and places to camp."

"They also fielded questions from locals and were often able to address their concerns in person and immediately, likely contributing to the low number of complaints reaching Council."

Council’s ambassador programme was funded by a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise grant made available last year to districts experiencing enormous strain on their infrastructure and resources from the huge increase in freedom campers in recent years.

"The grant also allowed us to make improvements to some of our popular freedom camping spots and increase enforcement of Council’s Camping in Public Places Bylaw," Mayor Mai says.

"This three-pronged approach to managing freedom camping worked well, with ambassadors and enforcement officers operating as a particularly effective team.

"Ambassadors visited freedom camping spots in the early evening to ensure camper compliance, before the enforcement officers called with their ticket books late evening or early morning."

"Ambassadors distributed nearly 3000 information packs to freedom campers, no doubt preventing much of last year’s non-compliant behaviour from occurring this year."

While the volunteer ambassador programme has now ended, Council’s enforcement officers will continue to issue infringements and hand out freedom camper information packs at iSite carparks and freedom camping sites around the district for the next two months.

"They won’t have the ambassadors to assist them and will probably miss that support," Mayor Mai says.

"However, our ambassadors have earned a good rest, and I hope they now get to enjoy our summer for themselves, something they have helped our residents and visitors to do for the last 52 days."

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