Otago Daily Times - 9 Jan 2017
The days of Warrington residents stumbling across human waste in the dunes are long gone and locals say the Dunedin City Council’s freedom-camping policies are paying off.
Locals are saying the success of the policies at Warrington Domain and Ocean View Reserve show freedom campers and residents can live together in harmony and other councils in New Zealand should follow Dunedin’s example.
This is a marked turnaround from last camping season, when some residents and a local runanga were calling for freedom camping to be banned at Warrington Domain amid concerns about human waste and rubbish being dumped in the dunes.
Warrington resident Ken McHoull said the council initiatives, which included upgrading toilet facilities and installing high-tech rubbish bins, meant such problems were a thing of the past.
He counted the number of freedom campers at the domain every morning and even on the busiest day this season, when there were 77 vehicles, there were no issues.
"The DCC has done magic at Warrington."
It showed that improving facilities was the way to go as going down the punitive route or banning freedom camping altogether did not work.
The naysayers who were last year calling for camping to be banned had been "pretty well shut up now because they have got nothing to moan about".
Waikouaiti Coast Community Board chairman Alasdair Morrison agreed the situation was much improved over last year.
There had been no complaints to the community board and the situation was "light years ahead" of the same time last year.
He was particularly impressed with the solar-powered bins installed by the council, which automatically compacted rubbish and emailed the contractor when they were close to full.
He still believed the council should open more areas to freedom camping, which would address the volume issue.
"If you are going to be inviting tens of thousands of visitors to your country, you have got to provide the facilities."
The facilities at Warrington received approval from users too when the Otago Daily Times visited on Saturday.
French tourist Thomas Ledein said he and his girlfriend, Fanny Bomy, and his sister Agathe Ledein picked up a camper van at Christchurch Airport and arrived at Warrington Reserve just after midnight on Friday.
Miss Ledein said the facilities were excellent, especially the clean toilets with soap.
"It’s very good for a free camping site."
Mr Ledein said he had been to many free camping sites in Australia and the reserve was better than all of them.
At the end of the reserve, two Otago families had returned to camp in the same spot.
Zoana Cockburn, of Dunedin, said her family had camped at the reserve for the past five years.
The facilities at the reserve were better than ever, with the addition of portable toilets, more rubbish bins and water being supplied.
Moana Chapman, of Otematata, said it was the second consecutive year the family had camped at the reserve with the Cockburn family.The campers at the reserve were friendly and quiet.
"There’s no rowdy ones at all ... they’re all friendly; all the freedom campers come up and talk," Mrs Chapman said.
She said the reserve was the "perfect spot" to camp, with plenty of children’s activities, including clam harvesting at Doctors Point and swimming between the flags at Warrington Beach.
Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall said the new initiatives were working at Ocean View and freedom campers had been better behaved this season, which he partly attributed to clearer signage installed by the council.
The reserve was at maximum capacity most nights, but campers were parking in a much more orderly fashion, he said.
Council recreation planning and facilities manager Jendi Paterson said last month she believed its new measures were making an impact.
The council was looking at reviewing its freedom camping bylaw early this year and considering opening up other areas to freedom camping, Ms Paterson said.
Public consultation would be held before any changes were firstname.lastname@example.org
Dunedin City Council freedom camping moves
• Toilets refurbished and four portable toilets installed.
• Two "Big Belly" solar-powered, self-compacting bins installed.
• Additional signs installed at the playground car park.
TOTAL COST: $50,000
Ocean View Reserve
• Taps and door latches replaced.
• Surface re-gravelled.
• New signs installed.
• One "Big Belly" solar-powered, self-compacting bin installed.
TOTAL COST: $2780
• The council has also stepped up communication with freedom-camping app makers and continues to fine rule-breaking campers.