Today we have some background to the issue of freedom camping in Hapuku. Read our most recent blog about the Swiss tourists whose tyres were slashed as they camped at a remote spot in Hapuku on March 1st, just north of the township of Kaikoura.
It seems that freedom campers have been a thorn in the side for some angry residents, who say the problems became worse after Hapuku got a mention in the Lonely Planet Guide.
A report headed Freedom camping under gun appeared in the Kaikoura star on 12/1//2012
“The Kaikoura district council needs to wake up and address the issue of freedom camping before the environment is ruined beyond repair, say angry residents
Stephen Young, who lives in the Hapuku settlement north of town said the situation was out of control in the area, with neighbours regularly confronted by the sight
of tourists openly defecating outside their properties.
Mr Young said since the paper road at the end of Hapuku was graded recently, an influx of freedom campers had taken it as an invitation to drive down to the
beach and park up for the night.
“The next thing we had buses down there, they had a big party and left broken bottles sticking up out of the sand…it’s just unbelievable…
…Concerned for the safety of other beach users, particularly children, Mr Young took it upon himself to make some “minor” alterations to the track using his digger to formjudder bars and make it harder for campervans to access...”
But when the other residents complained about it he was forced to level it out again….
The report by Emma Dangerfield goes on to tell how the Lonely Planet mentioned Hapuku, since then the spot has become even more popular with tourists looking for an ideal out of the way location. Mr Young thought the council needed to act now legislate to “do something about it.”
And so the wheels of bureaucracy are supposed to be turning, the council is canvassing public opinion over the issue. But the mayor of Kaikoura, Winston Gray said that freedom camping was only a big issue for the “crunch month” between 20 Dec and 20 Jan when there was more pressure on the town’s services.
Update: The survey has started, but was met with criticism from local businesses holders and councillors who think it is “flawed”. They say some of the questions are irrelevant: they ask how long the respondent has been in the area and what business they’re in.
“Gerald Nolan, owner of Top 10 Holiday Park, said the council had missed the point when it came to freedom camping. Allowing freedom camping in town would result in the ratepayer picking up the tab for sewer, water, refuse and monitoring costs, and local campgrounds would employ fewer people and spend less on local services.
He too agreed the survey was loaded and questioned the need for the council to know how many guests he had staying at his campground.
“[The] survey asks no questions regarding the financial impact on the community if freedom camping is allowed,” he said. “This community relies on the tourist dollar to create employment and retain services for our economic and social betterment … there is only one winner in this debate and that is the free camper who wants our community to pay for their holiday.”
Mr Nolan said true freedom camping did not mean parking in car parks and urban streets and he did not believe such campers spent much money in town at all…” read a full news report about it here
The survey is to be completed by 16 March.
As the Swiss tourist incident shows tourists are still staying in Hapuku outside of that peak period. Even though the middle aged women had a fully equipped campervan with its own bathroom facilities and were causing no problems, people may have still felt strongly enough about the issue to take the law into their own hands and slash tyres.
As far as we are aware police have yet to make an arrest in this case.
The town is concerned that news of this crime will reach an international audience and deter tourists from coming to the area. However, that may have been the intention of the perpetrator. Maybe to get Hapuku removed from the Lonely Planet? who knows what his or her motives were.
Until this issue is resolved we urge tourists to take care when choosing where to lodge their campervans in and around Kaikoura. Gauge local opinion, or ask landowners if it’s ok to park up for a while. Otherwise your holiday could be easily ruined by one thoughtless act of vandalism.
For more about the problems of freedom camping in New Zealand read our other blogs