They were a bunch of “free-loading freedom campers” according to the Ohauiti residents staring across the front fence.
About eight of them in four cars, believed to be out-of-towners, kerbside squatters, who destroyed the Anniversary Day holiday weekend for Poike Road neighbours by parking up on a suburban grass verge, then partying up – swilling alcohol and playing loud music day and night.
“It started on Saturday morning,” says resident and truck driver Aaron Herbert. “We woke up at 7am, pulled the curtains and there they were, across the road. Four cars parked arse-to-arse on the grass verge and about eight people. I thought ‘what’s going on here?’”
Aaron, his partner and 17-month-old found out soon enough. “By 10am they were having a shindig – drinking and thump, thump, thump, a car stereo was going off.”
That was the pattern for the rest of the weekend. “They did disappear for the afternoon and evenings – probably in town for a music event.”
But then they would roll back to their cars and pick up where they left off. Then, according to Aaron, they would sleep in their cars and start drinking again the following morning, with more loud tunes.
“Why couldn’t they go to a camping ground or a motel?” asks Aaron. “They had reasonable cars – they looked like they could afford it.” And he says he could have done with some support from either the police or Tauranga City Council.
“I wasn’t going to personally confront them,” he says. “There were eight of them and they’d been drinking.”
When he rang the police, Aaron was told it was a council issue as there was no violence or weapons involved. “How do I know if there were weapons? No-one was firing a gun in the air, but …”
He would have been happy for the police to have moved them on, but police insisted it was a council issue.
“Sweet as – but why did we have to suffer?” he asks. “Why did we have to watch over our front fence from a property we pay rates on when they were parked up on council property, doing what they wanted and paying nothing?
“They were having a weekend-long kerbside party in a residential area. Is that allowed?”
He rang the council several times for some answers. There was a suggestion he filed a noise complaint.
“But that would have required an address and there was no address.”
Aaron suggested they were freedom campers and should be treated as freedom campers. Send the enforcers demanded Aaron.
The council, he says, agreed to send a bylaw officer. “But we didn’t see one.”
Aaron suspects the kerbside crashers may have had friends nearby – perhaps using ablutions at a neighbour’s house, even though they weren’t parked on private property.
“But the rest of the neighbourhood was sitting there wondering what the hell was going on. And no-one seemed to want to know.”
Tauranga City Council confirms it received a complaint from Mr Herbert at 5pm last Sunday, but no-one visited the site.
Stuart Goodman, Tauranga City Council’s man in charge of parking and bylaws, says contracted enforcement officers visit all of its freedom camping locations that have restrictions to check for compliance.
When a complaint is received about another location they also try to attend, but during the busy summer period this is not always possible. On this occasion, no one went to Poike Road.
Complaints received during the day are not actioned immediately, as freedom camping offences are enforced overnight.
There have been 66 complaints about freedom campers in 35 different locations across Tauranga between December 11 last year and January 21 this year. During the same time period, 136 fines were issued.
The top locations are Papamoa Beach Road, Marine Parade, Oropi Road and Pacific Avenue.
Meanwhile, the council’s freedom camping bylaw is due for review this year. The process starts this month. The community’s encouraged to have their say during this process, as their input will help to update the bylaw.
In the meantime Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has called a meeting with mayors from around the country to discuss solutions to the freedom camping problem.