Freedom campers allegedly lighting fires, removing 'no-camping' signs near Tasman fire

Freedom campers have allegedly been removing 'no camping' and fire risk signs from freedom camping spots in the midst of the Tasman wildfire.

The Tasman-Marlborough Fire Brigade posted on Facebook that there have been reports that freedom campers have removed such signs at the McLeans reserve in the Motueka Valley and other areas. 

Local Noel Gallot told Newshub he noticed around five campers parked up at the reserve when he came back down the valley on Monday. 

"On the way into Motueka, the tape across the entrance way was down and one van was in there, so we thought to do a citizens' arrest and we will go in there and we'll just tell them and explain to them the situation," he says.

"By the time we got back, there was about five freedom campers."

"There's heaps of signs that [explain that campsites are closed]. Probably three signs on signposts saying that the reserve is closed... then there's the Fire and Emergency ones plastered around," Mr Gallot says. 

There was no excuse for any of the campers to be there, he says. 

He wasn't aware of people taking signs down, but said they just seem to be ignoring them.

"Most of them were really good when we explained. There was one guy, he was the first one right at the beginning of the day. He was the only one there and he refused to go.

"He said 'I've been coming here for 49 years' and he says 'I'm going to have a swim, kayak, walk my dog and cook my dinner' and he had a gas bottle and cooker sitting on the ground. He got quite nasty so we just rung the police."

Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne told Newshub he was aware of some freedom campers also lighting fires at Alexander Bluffs Bridge - a popular rest area. 

"There has been quite a few people staying overnight and some lighting fires," he says. 

"There are areas of concern around camping areas. There is a fire ban and there is a sign there. They don't see it or aren't aware of it." 

The Council is looking at closing the Alexander Bluffs Bridge reserve or relocating freedom campers to another site. 

"It's simply too dangerous to be there," he told Newshub.

"I think largely they are doing it innocently and when they are aware, the majority put them [fires] out immediately but because of that risk we're looking at closing that area.

"[Because] the thing is for the Motueka Valley, it is quite isolated, if a fire did start there, it would not be immediately noticed, that's why we want to get rid of that risk."


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