A new year with old freedom camping issues in Golden Bay


Waitapu Bridge has been officially closed to freedom campers since December 7 but not everyone is taking heed.

supplied/Stuff

Waitapu Bridge has been officially closed to freedom campers since December 7 but not everyone is taking heed.

It’s a new year but freedom camping remains a thorny issue in Golden Bay as two hot spot sites continue to be used despite being officially dropped.

Taupata Point, near Puponga, and Waitapu Bridge, just out of Takaka, were removed as official freedom camping sites from December 7 by the Tasman District Council after a hearing where many voiced opposition.

But Golden Bay resident and Forest and Bird member Ron Eckman said he visited the sites on December 30 and saw campers waking up at both.

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“At Waitapu, people were asleep [in their vehicles] then you see them get up and use the long drop toilet.”

At Taupata, three vehicles displayed a self-contained sticker. Despite being removed as an official camping spot under the amended council bylaw, Taupata is a road reserve meaning self-contained vehicles cannot be banned.

Eckman questioned whether all the vehicles with stickers were actually self-contained.

He said the amount of vehicles at the sites ranged from a few to more than a dozen, varying from day to day and time of day.

“The numbers always vary because people come and go.”

Eckman said at Taupata the council had a legal responsibility to protect shore birds, including godwits, South Island pied oystercatchers, white-fronted terns and banded dotterels which roosted there.

Rubbish left behind at Taupata Point this week. The site still has freedom campers frequenting the spot despite the site being closed to campers.

supplied/Stuff

Rubbish left behind at Taupata Point this week. The site still has freedom campers frequenting the spot despite the site being closed to campers.

“On top of all of that, Taupata doesn’t even meet the site criteria for TDC’s responsible camping strategy. It’s pretty silly that any camping is allowed there.”

Eckman was frustrated the site hadn’t been made off-limits to all camping vehicles.

Tasman District Council communications manager Chris Choat said the council bylaw prohibited non-self-contained vehicles. Compliance staff monitored the sites, ensuring the bylaw was complied with.

Taupata Point has no camping amenities and is a popular site for shore birds

supplied/Stuff

Taupata Point has no camping amenities and is a popular site for shore birds

“It is a rest area and reserve … we can’t stop everybody going in there. Taupata will be a key focus for our compliance people.”

He said popular camping apps, including Campermate and WikiCamps NZ had been notified of the site changes.

“We’re in close contact with those, and they’re very responsible. We’ve found them very responsive.”

At the popular Waitapu Bridge spot alongside State Highway 60 near Takaka, a photo this week showed more than 20 vehicles parked, including a number of vans.

The site is now under the jurisdiction of Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency and local iwi group Manawhenua ki Mohua.

Waka Kotahi southern region media manager Frances Adank said rocks had been placed to stop freedom campers using the wider area, but access to the Takaka River was available to day visitors.

She said a visit to the site by a staff member this week reported only six vehicles at the bridge, with two of them being people taking their dogs for a swim in the river.

“There doesn’t appear to be a huge freedom camping problem at this stage, but we will keep an eye on it.”

Freedom camping has been a long-running bone of contention in Golden Bay, with residents and some businesses saying it has detrimental effects but others saying it provides an economic boost.



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