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Allow campers or not?

The Makorori carpark should be closed to freedom camping says District Councillor Larry Foster — but the council’s environmental and planning committee was told it might not be possible to make changes before next summer.

Mr Foster found himself in conflict with committee chairwoman Pat Seymour, who said the council was supposed to be promoting tourism and raised the question of where else the freedom campers could go.

The committee was considering a staff report on freedom camping and summer camping. It was told it was probable that nothing could be done until the government reviewed its freedom camping legislation.

“I am a representative of the community and the surfing community,” said Mr Foster.

“I would say that 90 percent of that community is not happy that the carpark is used for freedom camping.”

Andy Cranston said the regulations were confusing. An outsider coming here would be confused about what was allowed and where.

The council had to find some way of getting information out.

Liveable communities director Andrew White said the freedom camping bylaw had been revised three times in four years. It was not appropriate to review it again until the Government came up with new legislation.

There was a difficulty in that the council had powers to enforce freedom camping regulations but not normal summer camping.

Rehette Stoltz said this all happened after the Government pushed through quick legislation for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Environmental services and protection director Nick Zaman said the council increased its monitoring this year in response to past complaints, including dawn patrols.

It was a challenge. Sometimes people just did not understand. Sometimes they left the country, so it was very diffiult to enforce.

There was a concerted effort by staff to get the message across.

Mr Foster said if there was not a review this year, the council would be bombarded with complaints.

There should be some way of looking at the Makorori carpark and possibly the Marina carpark.

He would like to see the council address this sooner rather than later.

Mrs Seymour said this was in her ward and not one person had rung her about it.

“We need to rationalise what we want to happen in this town,” she said.

They were saying they wanted tourists and many of them were young people who travelled all around the world, just like young New Zealanders.

A lot would come because they wanted to surf at Makorori.

They could be both surfers and freedom campers.

Last week, before the weather closed in, it was clearly very popular but there would have been room for the locals. It was nearly empty the morning of their meeting.

This was a beautiful place. Did the council want to make it safe for visitors or chase them away?

Mr Foster said there were three significant national surfing breaks in the area.

Freedom campers were supposed to leave the next morning but many stayed to surf the next day.

“There is conflict there.

“The simple solution is get rid of the conflict,” he said.

Amber Dunn said back in the day people could park right up the hill and there was no problem.

Could the council go ahead and remove Makorori as a freedom camping site without waiting for the Government?

This was the question the public was going to ask.

Mr White said this would be a question for the council’s strategy team.

Mrs Seymour said the council would have to consult the public on that.

“What about the visitors?”

Ms Dunn: “They could park somewhere else.”

Mrs Seymour: “And where is that?”

The recommendation to note the report was carried.

The Makorori roadside carpark caters for nationally-significant surf breaks as well as being a popular freedom camping location. But at times the carpark is congested as campers and surfers vie for space. Pictures supplied
Opponents point also to the litter sometimes left behind in the area.