Time to pull the handbrake on non-complying campers

By Brian Rogers

Freeloading campers have become the scourge of our public spaces. A few inconsiderate sods are ruining it for travellers and locals alike.

Many of our most treasured public areas are overtaken by freeloading, filthy and often intimidating loudmouths; intimidating genuine, law-abiding and well equipped motor caravanners and riling residents.

I?m qualified to comment because I?m both a ratepayer and a campervan owner. I see the issue from both sides and the answer is clear.

An obnoxious, entitled few are spoiling it for the rest. There are rules and conditions about so-called freedom camping and motor caravans.

For good reason. However, those rules are being flouted and the flouters are thumbing their nose at the rest of society ?those who pay for it and clean up the mess.

The district and city councils need to come down hard on those either not certified self-contained, or those overnighting outside of the allocated areas; campers exceeding the allocated number of vehicles.

The Motor Caravan Association and certifiers have tightened up on the criteria for self-containment, but it will take up to four years for those Mickey Mouse vans to be phased out.

It?s a joke that a people mover could ever qualify as a functioning self-contained van, when the toilet is under a bed and other sanitary systems are inadequate.

Plus, those with self-containment certificates need to adhere to the rules. Just because you?re self-contained doesn?t entitle you to stop wherever, whenever.

As a vanner we?ve an obligation to comply; not just to be good citizens, but for the preservation of our rights. The minute vanners push the boundaries, the rest of the community will clip your wings. And so they should. I don?t know how some of these dodgy campers taking such liberties can sleep at night, knowing they?re riling the neighbourhood that?s hosting them.

I?d rather pay a fee to know that I?m contributing – and also earning some entitlement – than to be setting up for the night with the uncertainty of the mood of the community I?m visiting.

The majority of vanners are sensible, caring and responsible citizens. In fact most of the motorhome community is a friendly and hospitable family. But there are exceptions and they need to be culled from the herd.

Many of the young tourist brigade are haughtily cavalier in their attitude to the environment and sanitation.

And they can be obnoxious after a few J?germeisters or whatever the trendy flavour is. We question the value of such tourists when they?re scamming every free rort possible and showing little respect for our communities.

Official figures claim they spend $120 a day per person, but a recent TV interview indicated the budget bludgers were scraping through on $20-$50. Is that worth it, for the nuisance factor they cause?

But even so-called Kiwis can soil the nest.

One of our local reserves outside of the city has a designated four-van parking area, with a maximum three-night stay in any month.

Outside of those parks, no vans are allowed overnight, even with a self-containment certificate. Often there?s a spillover, and some of those vehicles aren?t even certified. Some are cars with towels over the windows, yet I?ve never seen a council officer checking this or moving the culprits on.

It?s not good enough to make fancy rules if you aren?t going to enforce them and be seen to be enforcing them.

There have been stoushes with locals who rightly have questioned the actions of some campervanners. And the answers from those caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and behaving badly have been astounding.

They range from ?we didn?t know? to ?we don?t care?. I witnessed a confrontation this week between a neighbour and a wing-badged van inhabitant who was abusing the privilege.

One of her excuses, among the many lame ones, is the best I?ve ever heard: ?I have a Master?s Degree.?

There?s no way a certified van member of the NZMCA should not understand the parking allocation and maximum nights’ stay. Every park is well signposted and surely you don?t need a Master?s Degree to understand that.

You?re simply alienating the van fraternity from the communities; making it harder for decent folk to keep their rights and freedoms.

Sulphur Point is another festering freeloader venue. Often hosting well more than the allocated number of vans; often containing vehicles with no SC; and many staying beyond the time limit. Some are completely taking the piss ? literally ? camping under the trees, pretending to be fishing and slinging hammocks under the pohutukawa.

Their dogs bark at passers-by and, if you wander too close to ?their patch?, there?s threatening behaviour, use and abuse of the amenities and boasting of their freeloading prowess. Guess who is picking up the tab, and the poop?

Ratepayers, it?s time to revolt and take control of our treasured public spaces. Give the decent, well-equipped van users their space. Kick the unappreciative and the ill-equipped to the kerb. If the council won?t control the mayhem, take a leaf from the book of Squatters Creek?s fed-up residents, who barricaded a local bridge when the camper numbers reached the allocated limit.

Tauranga City Council is currently amending its freedom camping bylaw, so have your say via their website. And you decent motorcaravan folk: stand up against the ratbags. Report their numbers to the NZMCA. Call the council and if you?re threatened, call the police; but don?t put up with these cretins trashing our reserves and the good name of good folk.

It?s all about balance. Too many good people have been too lenient for too long.