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$326,000 boost to freedom camping

A $325,905 government grant will allow Gisborne District Council to better control seasonal freedom camping in this district, says environmental planning and regulations committee chairwoman Pat Seymour.

News of the grant from the Responsible Freedom Camping Fund was given to the committee by the council’s funding and contracts adviser Julie Conder.

The council made an application and the grant was announced by the Minister of Tourism Kelvin Davis.

Gisborne is one of 38 councils granted a total of nearly $8 million to fund a range of activities to support responsible or freedom camping.

It will be distributed in three initiatives — signage and advertising, visitor information and visitor engagement.

Mrs Seymour said the money was purely for operational costs.

The signage and advertising grant would make things clearer for those who wanted to camp in this region.

The council would be able to employ two part-time visitor engagement officers — people who would monitor the freedom camping and give people advice.

The grant would also pay for maintenance and increased clearance of rubbish.

“We have had a substantial amount of criticism for not adequately monitoring freedom camping because some people put out excessive rubbish, some people have dogs and there is a concern in some areas about the excessive use of motorbikes on areas where dotterel and other birds are nesting.

“There are a number of issues around freedom camping that the council now will be able to give much closer attention to.

“When freedom camping began it was intended that it should not cost the ratepayer anything, but clearly if the council had to increase the amount spent on monitoring then that was going to come out of people’s pockets, which is slightly unfair.

“It is going to be interesting to see if this fund will keep going in future years but it will enable us to lift our game.

“This is good news and $325,000 is a substantial amount.”