Tākaka freedom campers could be heading to court

A freedom camping spat in Tākaka may be heading to court as residents refuse to leave the area.

Despite being issued with infringement fines, the self-described "gypsies" are fighting for their right to stay at Waitapu Bridge, with one local saying the situation is out of control. 

A health hazard, stinky and totally out of control - that's how locals are labelling the freedom campers.

The community has set up camp permanently and doesn't like the council telling them what to do. 

"We need a place to be. Everybody needs a place to be and we all come from different walks of life from different places. Some of us don't have the money to pay rent," says camper Heather Simpson.

Simpson and her friends say they are peacefully protesting their right to stay on the riverside.

"My mother taught me rights go with responsibility so I'm not just asking for rights without saying that I will take responsibility for respecting this land and the people here as well," says Simpson.

She claims 99 percent of campers are respectful of the land but locals say they leave a disgusting mess.

"They're just leaving a mess," said local woman Pam Delaney. "Toilet paper and what goes with toilet paper."

Simpson considers the iwi the highest authority on the campsite, but says she would welcome discussions with the council.

"I'd like to have more korero more listening between different people," she said. "I'd like us to come together and unite. That's what I'm all about."

But Tasman District Council says time's up. The local by-law states freedom campers are only allowed to spend two nights at any given spot.

This group has been here much longer so they've each been issued $200 fines and asked to move on.

"Stay away or we might have to take further action against you," says councillor Adrian Humphries.

That further action could include trespass notices or even police assistance.