New Plymouth set to ban 'some' freedom campers

The proposal comes after a steep rise in freedom campers in Taranaki, which was named the world's second best region by Lonely Planet. Photo credit: Getty

A new bylaw up for debate proposes a ban on freedom campers in Taranaki who don't have their own toilet facilities.

The ban would be in effect on all council-owned or managed land, and there would also be a limited number of sites available for self-contained vehicles. 

The proposal comes after a steep rise in freedom campers in Taranaki, which was named the world's second best region to visit in 2017 by travel guide Lonely Planet.

A council report found that from January through March this year 716 freedom campers stayed in the region- a huge increase from the 297 recorded over the same summer period in 2015.

In numbers, the threshold of non-self-contained freedom campers rose from 55 in 2015 to 294 in 2017. The figures are from Thursday through Saturday at 13 sites, and the report said it was reasonable to conclude the actual number of freedom campers was far higher.

The report said restrictions on non-self-contained freedom camping were required to protect the environment in popular camping spots, and the health and safety of visitors in those areas. 

But the ban could have a negative effect on the economic benefits of tourism in the region, and the report noted this meant travellers might choose to go elsewhere.

It comes as complaints about freedom campers have also increased, with 41 lodged so far this year. 44 were made in total in 2016, and just 19 in 2015.

Complaints ranged from overcrowding, littering, campers defecating in public and overstaying the three-day limit imposed.

The report states the bylaw would allow council to better monitor freedom camping and enforce the  rules through issuing fines, rather than pursuing offenders through the courts, as required under its Public Places Bylaw.

Monitoring and enforcement of the bylaw could be difficult, it found, and council officers are seeking more direction from members on what steps could be taken to cater for campers without toilet facilities in the vicinity of public toilets. 

If the council's planning committee adopts the bylaw on Thursday, public submissions will be open until September 26.

The public will be asked for ideas on how to cater for non-self-contained freedom campers.