Friday, March 4, 2016


French Farm foreshore from The Press/Stuff
Freedom campers at French Farm on Banks Peninsula pack into a section of foreshore beside a 70kmh road.
The old overwhelmed Public toilet Block is situated out of shot to the right of the road and behind the photographer

I am what is referred to as a freedom camper, perhaps we need to find a new title for our genre or at least for the considerable  numbers who are members of the NZ Motor Caravan Association.

As freedom  campers, under a standard developed by the NZMCA, members spent in most cases serious dosh to achieve what became described as leave only wheel marks and take only memories as a minimal impact activity.
Certified Self Containment involves a vehicle with its installed toilet, all waste water generated to be contained for discharge at facilities the association developed often  in co-operation with local authorities, both "black water"- body waste, and "Grey water"- ablution and dish/clothes washing and rinsing, enabled to be discharged without spillage and in a sanitary method. Dump stations as they are called are sometimes situated in supermarket car parks as a co-operative scenario to allow associated purchase of daily grocery needs when dumping waste. One stop if you will.
The standard includes basic minimums of litter containment for later disposal, safety equipment availability, plumbing to a similar to domestic house system standards and quality, freshwater storage to have a lesser capacity to grey water storage to exclude spillage, a discharge hose and controlled release point to prevent spillage, all really just sensible, hygienic and practical.

The scene above is nothing even remotely similar.
That scene indicates a practice that our association finds appalling as litter, toilet waste and ablution all rely on some form of public facility and in the mind of a S C vehicle owner it has a distinct  back packer mode as compared to a motor camp operation  or the S C  we strive to promote. Some of the larger and more responsible camper van hire providers have embraced self containment with their vans meeting the NZMCA criteria and proudly displaying our sticker as evidence.

In the case above at French Farm foreshore toileting relies on an older concrete block public facility served by a basic 'septic tank system'. When the site was included in the NZMCA "travel directory" members only deposited contents of portaloo cartridges on an emergency basis, it was a 10/15 km drive to a  local body public "dump station" at the Duvauchelle Motor Camp. French Farm locals welcomed the overnighters who were of little impact and brought a measure of interesting mutual enjoyment of what is a quite beautiful bit of "The Peninsula".

Then the "Bears" (we all know where they Sh*t don't we) who rent station wagons and people movers from Wicked Campers, Budget Vans, Easy, and other operators with no thought of anything resembling self containment included, to cater for basically self drive "hitch-hikers" discovered NZ  and now a serious problem exists with the public toilet septic tank  overwhelmed leading to sewerage being spilt direct to the Harbour.
Oh sure there might or might not be a porta potty included in budget hire offerings but it would be rapidly buried under clothing bedding and cooking equipment and therefore effectively unavailable. Some extreme  cases the cassette bearing  a bond, refundable if said facility was returned unused.
A standing joke among NZMCA members had those self contained toilets consisting of a folding shovel!

Clearly the concept of Freedom Camping has morphed into a much less attractive and disgusting use of public land by a segment of the tribe.
The first hints that things were degenerating came with problems in areas around Lakes District, Central Otago  and the Coromandel Peninsula.
Solutions have proved very difficult to discover and police. 
My first personal confrontation of the worst aspects of the problem came with a comfort stop for our dogs at a layby near the Hope River Bridge on SH 7 after earlier departing from the Hanmer Springs NZMCA PoP on the old road approach to the 7a bridge over the Hanmer River, only to be forced to abandon any thought of the Furkids being given a riverside walk with poop bag to hand when it was apparent that just placing a foot on the ground while avoiding human excrement and loo paper was very unlikely.

 A first step solution could be a legislative move to institute a minimum standard of mobile home for hire including making camping in vehicles set up for travel an offense if insufficiency is apparent, as opposed of course to  "pulling over to rest when tired", too  easily offered as a defence.

Those who make leaving only wheel marks a minimum impact are as appalled as the increasing and justified chorus expressing disgust at what is happening and that brings greater pressure on the NZMCA to expand its private property facilities across the nation that are steadily growing but too often coming up against rather churlish and unnecessary protests from  nymbyism, sometimes arbitrary and often officious intransigence from Tranzit and widespread  ignorance of what the association actually spends considerable time and resources to accomplish.

Calls for our members to be confined to "motor camps" comes up against two major 'not going to happens'.
We generally don't wish to be packed cheek to cheek with other campers and second we have no need for the facilities that come with a per night tariff that can exceed $50 a night yet we are more than content to contribute $6 pn to use our Park over Properties both association owned and controlled and private providers that deliver a reasonably level area behind a gate. The forty odd dollar difference only seems a waste of money and an expensive impost for no  benefit.
To all those who call us "bludgers", that is arrant nonsense as  almost all members of the NZMCA are still paying rates on our homes and obtaining zero benefit from our base local authority while on the road.
It is the same with web access, the Telcos still being paid their dosh while we hire internet via a mobile device or piggy back on public free wifi offerings.

The average spend by Movanners is calculated at  over $200 per day and while that may not equal flying up the pointy end of a plane or staying in a hotel and eating at the Hiltons restaurant, with in excess of 30 000 members, admittedly not all  on road at the same time and many who only travel spasmodically.
Lets say 20%  are out there that could be some serious money being spent across the country in food fuel,   entertainment and access on a daily basis.

Just as blunt instrument enforcement is seeing a road toll stubbornly rising, knee jerk reactions to  disgusting behaviour by some who choose to travel our roads in mobile homes will not be altered by superficial banning and other attempts to prevent lawful and compliant enjoyment of our open spaces by responsible true "freedom campers".
Acres of farmland are converted to campsites on the Coromandel every year at summer holiday times and I am unaware of the problems that the "bears"  bring daily to some tourist hot spots with that rather special unique NZ traditional activity that happens on an annual here today gone in a month spectacular along Coromandel roadside paddocks.

These are the musings of an ordinary member of the NZMCA and in no way attempt to portray the policies and rulings of that body or with any official approval.


Anonymous said...

I got moved on from a quiet spot out of Queenstown one morning in 1974 having slept the night on the lakefront well out of town and the public gaze. I couldn't get the motorbike out of sight in the lay by and that was the giveaway. I never left rubbish behind as that wasn't the done thing back then despite environmentalism not having been invented.


The Veteran said...

GD ... thoughtful and well constructed post.

Noel said...

Was a time where there was two types of camping. Caravan and tent. Necessity required camping ground accommodation.

Progressively there has been a change, first to self contained light truck conversions to the multiple versions available to day.

With the concept of "freedom camping" been born the evolution was the ethos of "I spent a lot of money buying this thing so I should be accorded privileges not available before and at others expense."

Of course what screwed it was overseas cheap tour operators entering the market which evolved into a cheap Charlie version of the " self contained camper".

For the rest it was as in the past take your chances of not been seen by officialdom or go to a camping ground.

All have the same aim. To get the most out the touring dollar by avoiding camp ground charges.

Here's a simple idea. Include a levy in the self contained warrant to reimburse the costs for ratepayer grey and waste water facilities and cover the clean up after irresponsible freedom campers. your breath back Dodger.

There is a precedence. For years responsible dog owners have been paying for irresponsible one in their registrations.

Noel said...

Dogs owners are fined 300 if they foul by our Council.
No doggy doo bags provided in the registration.

Anonymous said...

In peak season we have a daily average of 30 camper vans driving down our road with the majority returning quickly when they see it's a camping ground and not free sites.
Probably why the Council had to redo the seal on the road.

gravedodger said...

@ Noel Mar 5th 10 40 re your last para, would I receive a refund on the eye watering rates I pay on my Kanuka clad hillside for a goat track access and bugger all else.
Maybe a fee/polltax from the gazillion cruise ship nomads who wander in and out of the local public dunnies at no cost and then there are the significant weeks I am absent and not able to access the non provided services I am so generously awarded by CH CH City Council, as in no water supply, no sewer connection, no refuse collection, a narrow one lane metal road that might get a grader four times a year but has City Care using it as a rally track most days to visit the Alzheimers Valley Water facility and Parks and Reserves staff accessing the Purple Peak Reserve with its public access to the Waterfall.

@ anon Mar 6th 10 15, I am wondering if to alleviate your clearly cost benefit eyes, should the Campervan hire companies be levied to provide a rates contribution to LGNZ to be distributed for roading.
I know a high proportion of my fellow NZ citizen campervan owners have a rateable property as a base, in my case it carries an impost of nearly four thousand Hillarys per annum.

Anonymous said...

"I don't believe waste dumps should be provided by any councils without a charge, because we as rate payers will otherwise pay for the installation and maintenance of these facilities, therefore providing a free holiday for people not contributing to our region by the way of rates. They say they buy goods in the region, but the freedom campers, who are the only ones who require free dump stations, don't spend much except bare minimum. For the majority of travellers that stay in Holiday Parks, there are plenty of waste dumps throughout the country. (All Holiday Parks have them)."

Noel said...

"I know a high proportion of my fellow NZ citizen campervan owners have a rateable property as a base, in my case it carries an impost of nearly four thousand Hillarys per annum."

Aw come on that rebuttal is only relevant if those owners travel in the area they pay rates.

Anon 1:43 Agreed.

gravedodger said...

I must have missed the bit that says residents can only use open spaces and Public facilities within the boundaries of their local authority of domicile.

Crikey how moronic, Public facilities are available for the use of the public and that includes cruise passengers who come ashore from ships owned crewed and paid for offshore, Korean tour clients who incidentally often only use Coaches operated by companies owned and operated by Koreans, Australian skiers who hopefully use any facilities they encounter but for some inexplicable insane reasoning Noel and anon seem to have a very different set of rules for NZ citizens who for any of a variety of reasons choose Movanning.

Methinks it is all about biased treatment of a group that a minority of people consider to be bludgers and that has an inference that that group of bullies have a substandard intellect. The type of prejudice that Xenophobes, racists and the elitists employ, daft buggers.

Now could we get back to "bears" who sh*t in open public spaces, the lazy dirty bastards don't even go into the woods ffs.
Idjits who bring opprobrium to any person who may camp in open spaces, in tents movans and even just under the stars, use shelters in park land and comply with all reasonable rules, both written and unwritten, of hygiene, health and safety while enjoying what our sparsely populated and wonderful country offers to all.

Anonymous said...

Public facilities are available for the use of (all) the public and that includes cruise passengers.

Yup and public funded waste dumps are only available to a minority.

Noel said...

Anon 2.06

I believe you've hit on the answer to the Dodgers dilemma.

Close down all the public waste dumps, given all camping grounds have them, and use the money for toilets at the most likely "bear" sites.

gravedodger said...

There is absolutely no dilemma facing compliant motor homes, mine or any others, you have no idea what you are talking about.

The danger is the disgusting outcomes from the budget mobile home animals will impact on freedom camping and it will not just be limited to Movanners but every traditional kiwi summer camping out will be seriously curtailed if not prohibited altogether.

I am unaware of any restrictions on "who" can dump at a public dump station anon so evidence please of your inane available only to a minority claim. I know of some that take a $2 coin to open the lid for access and others that refuse service to full tank systems allowing only cassettes to be emptied.

Given the eye watering cost of recent state of the art public toilet facilities CH CH CC have installed or have programmed and knowing the cost of a public dump station connected to a local authority sewer your maths is total rubbish.
In fact I doubt there would be funding for one of Lianne's dunnies (eight for $970 000, Stuff June 2015) if no PDS installations were constructed in the next year and the savings redirected.

Anonymous said...

"I am unaware of any restrictions on "who" can dump at a public dump station "

I'm pretty sure 100 cruise ship patrons lining up to pee in a dump station hole would be subject to a "urinating in a public place charge."

gravedodger said...

Now your stupidity is evidenced anon, that is probably why you don't give an Id even a nom de plume.

In case you hadn't noticed no one urinates into a dump station, hang on maybe a moron such as your self could well do so.

You are really living in the past, casting offensive matter has been added to Burglary on the list and Police don't bother, the only repercussion from the streaker came from his whinge that he had been roughed up out of sight of the paying public.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous or pseudonym? Take you pick they both disguise.
gravedoger hmmmmmmmmm.