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Freedom campers welcome says New Zealand East Coast council and residents

January 12, 2010
Freedom campers welcome says New Zealand East Coast council and  residents

Right on the easternmost point of New Zealand's North Island in the Eastland Gisborne Region is East Cape Lighthouse. The road to the cape hugs the coast for 21km from Te Araroa.

New Zealands remote East Cape is one of the first places in the world to see the sun rise. It is one of the countrys least visited places and it offers a spectacular rugged coastline and is a great place for travellers who want to get off the beaten track.

Isaac Davidson of the New Zealand Herald reports that the East Coast Region is one of the last bastions of Freedom Camping.

Unrestricted camping spots are available on land that has no title, just metres from the sea on the rugged and sparsely populated coast.

Gisborne District Council Community Facilities Manager Terry McMillan said free camping numbers were higher than ever, and local residents overwhelmingly supported it.

[The community] sees it as a chance for people from all walks of life to take the family to the beach for true East Coast experience, he said.

One of the pleasures about freedom camping is that no one will be turned away. Everyone will find a spot and make the most of it.

This area has always been a stronghold of the Maori, and probably the place where European influence was least felt. Gisborne and the Cape region place great emphasis on the retention of their culture and traditions.

Fine Maori carving and decoration appears in churches and meeting houses at Te Kaha, Hicks Bay, Ruatoria and especially St Mary's Church at Tikitiki. The coastal road provides spectacular views of a wild coastline with picturesque little bays, inlets and coves. Surfing is popular north of Gisborne, and the state forest parks of Ruatoria, Raukumara, Urutawa and Waioeka offer numerous walking tracks.

Campervans have  a big following in New Zealand
Campervans have a big following in New Zealand

The Gisborne region has been settled for over 1000 years, although Europeans did not arrive until late in the 19th century when the first whaling station was established in the area. It was in Gisborne, that Captain JamesCook made his first landfall on New Zealand soil in 1769.

The New Zealand Herald reports that Terry McMillan estimated half of free campers were locals. But he added: Many out-of-towners consider themselves locals as they have brought their families back for so many years.

He said that the Henry family, have camped at free spots on the East Cape for 70 years. Five generations of the family have set down at Kaiaua Beach and Tolaga Bay.

The Gisborne District Council does not charge for freedom camping, but asks that campers pay a permit fee which covers the cost of removing waste.

But the New Zealand Herald reports that Thames Coromandel District Council has authorised a $40 fine for anyone not camping in a campground or holiday park.

Some visitors, however, consider the fine a small price to pay and continue to stop in freedom campsites including beach carparks. The New Zealand Herald reports that this is compounded by the lack of formal campsites in the Coromadel at peak periods.

A Thames Coromadel District Council Bylaw Officer said the free campers caused an eyesore by strewing their washing among the phutukawa trees and brought associated security and health risks.

The rego tells the  story
The rego tells the story

The New Zealand Herald reported that Motor Caravan Association President Dick Waters agreed that freedom campers without self-contained vehicles were a problem throughout the Cormandel Peninsula.

But he said those with certified campervans were being unfairly targeted by the bylaw and the dwindling number of campsites meant some of the association's 40,000 members had chosen to bypass the peninsula this summer.

They (the council) need to target the sector who are causing the problem, all my members are certified self-contained with holding tanks that can go a minimum of three days and leave no waste wherever they go.

Dick Waters said more motorcaravan sites should be made available, as users spent $90 million a year throughout New Zealand.

Thames Coromandel District Council environment services manager Craig Birkett said the council was looking into the possibility of creating freedom camping locations around the peninsula.

NZ Motor Caravan Assoc member
NZ Motor Caravan Assoc member
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