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Whanganui considering freedom camping restrictions after complaints of rubbish, long stays

Whanganui’s mayor says the city is now considering a limit on how long freedom campers can stay following concerns freedom campers are staying too long and leaving rubbish around the city.

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Hamish McDouall says some residents are concerned they’re losing out in favour of freedom campers. Source: Breakfast

Some Whanganui residents are beginning to feel like they’re losing out in the favour of the campers, who are flocking to the area in response to the city promoting itself as being motor home-friendly.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning that more nuance is needed when defining freedom campers.

“A lot of people label anyone in a motor home a freedom camper, and I think you’ve got to be a bit more granular about the definition of freedom campers," he said. 

Mr McDouall said there are inbound tourists, who tend to be younger, from overseas and with a tight budget, and Kiwis who are “peddling around the country in a campervan.”

The mayor said there are two concerns currently being posed by: rubbish, and people "exploiting the freedom camping areas way too long".

“We have been having reports of a build-up of rubbish that we need to respond to, we have been having reports of a build-up of rubbish that we haven’t had before around the freedom camping area, so we’ll look at that.

“Some of those people have actually moved out of the rental market altogether and just live in their vans, as I say, go around the country and staying here and there for too long, and that’s just not fair."

Mr McDouall said the city is now considering a limit on how long campers can stay in the area.

“I have to say, three years ago, this wasn’t a problem, but Whanganui’s having its time in the sun and we’ve got a lot of events over the summer, so it’s altered a few things,” he said.

He said criticism that locals are losing business from campers to the free areas is unfounded.

“Reality is, people who freedom camp, they don’t necessarily want to stay in the camping grounds, so it’s not binary. You don’t get moved on from the camping area and go to the camping ground - what you do is just avoid the place altogether.

“That’s really proven by an MBIE report which suggests that freedom campers actually stayed longer in New Zealand by a good 46 days versus 17 days, and the key thing about that is when you’re staying longer, you get into the regions."

“If you’re only staying for 17 days, you’re going to do the highlights, aren’t you? You’re going to go to Queenstown and Rotorua… If you stay 46 days, you’ll see all the wonderful places like Whanganui.”