Freedom campers outstay welcome in Pāpāmoa

A community of freedom campers have been living in Taylor reserve Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

Pāpāmoa residents are frustrated by freedom campers overstaying in a beachside reserve carpark.

The campers are taking up most of the available parking space at the Taylor Reserve carpark in Pāpāmoa East, according to resident Jayne Darby.

Jayne says the campers leave their belongings around which include car tyres, timber and bongs for drug smoking.

Jayne regularly uses the carpark when walking her dog and says on her last visit there were eight vehicles using the carpark for camping.

One was a large bus style campervan taking up two spaces up which left very little space for other people wanting to use the carpark, she says.

“They took over the majority of the car park that day. It just makes it hard for everybody else,” says Jayne.

“It is a public carpark that has designated spots for freedom camping and I respect that.

“But for some people whether they're living on the road or whether they are homeless to be parked there permanently, I don't think it should be in the community’s faces,” she says.

“I understand there is homelessness, I understand they're doing their best living in vehicles.”

Jayne’s biggest concern was access to parking spaces for beach users and people parking trailers after launching boats and this would be worse in summer.

“If that was there in the summer months, I think the council would have a lot more complaints.”

Jayne says some of the vehicles have been there permanently for at least three weeks with the large camper there for around two months.

She contacted council about her concerns.

There are two designated freedom camper spaces at Taylor Reserve and a vehicle can stay in one spot for two nights per calendar month. People that breach this could face a $200 fine.

On the day Local Democracy Reporting visited there were nine vehicles in the camping carpark.

The campers say they’re just people trying to get by. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

Vinny Wilkinson owns the large bus and told Local Democracy Reporting he has stayed in the carpark for around a month because he had some work in the area.

Wilkinson also had issues with the battery in his bus dying so he has been unable to move it. He is hoping to move locations today.

He thinks around four vans will follow him to his new spot.

The sheer size of his bus makes it hard to find a suitable space to park up and he says he doesn’t use the designated freedom camper spots because he likes to leave them for other campers.

He says his bus does draw a lot of attention from people and is an “easy target”, but he keeps his spot clean and picks up rubbish in the surrounding area.

“It draws attention from the locals no matter where I go,” says Vinny.

A community of four or five other vehicles has formed around him, he says.

“There's some people living in their vehicles that don't really have much space for cooking and stuff, so I let them use my kitchen,” says Vinny.

It also provides people with safety, especially some of the young women.

“They feel a lot safer parking up around the bus, it’s like the mothership.”

Wilkinson says they encourage all the campers to keep their areas clean and try to protect the area from trouble and “crack heads”.

“We openly protect the area, so people know not to cause sh*t.

“We don’t want troublemakers.”

The campers have formed relationships with some of the nearby residents as well.

“We get along with quite a lot of the locals.”

“The people that are actually haters, the Karens, if they give us the time of day to come and say hi, they are usually quite pleasantly surprised.”

Vinny has been living in his bus for the last two years and noticed an increase in people living in cars and vans since the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

Council contractors empty the bins daily. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

Fellow camper Shea, who did not want his last name used, told Local Democracy Reporting he works but was unable to keep up with the pressure of rent and the increased cost of living, so bought a van to live in.

He wants eveyone to know the campers are just people at the end of the day.

“We're actually really nice people and we care about each other,” says Shea.

“We lend each other money, we give each other food. If someone's in need, we'll always help one another.

“We're trying to find a way of living that is accommodating in an expensive world and it's not easy.”

Shea says if there was a place specifically for freedom campers with facilities, then the majority of them would go there and would be happy to pay to use showers and a small weekly rent if needed.

Jayne suggests council could provide a designated area for freedom campers as well.

Tauranga City Council maintains and monitors Taylor Reserve and the other freedom camping spots throughout the city.

Regulation monitoring team leader Stuart Goodman says the council was aware of several people sleeping in their vehicle at Taylor Reserve who claim to be experiencing homelessness.

“Council ensures that people experiencing homelessness are given information on what support services are available to them,” says Stuart.

“We do not generally use the bylaw or enforcement to manage homelessness.

“We ensure that people are connected with the appropriate social services and given time to seek suitable emergency accommodation.

When asked if council would consider creating a designated are for people sleeping in vehicles, Goodman says: “Council would not support designated areas for rough sleepers on our road reserves or traffic network due to traffic safety concerns”.

He says council was monitoring Taylor Reserve and issuing infringements for any breaches of the bylaw, unless people were not able to comply due to their homelessness situation.

Despite this, Vinny has received four fines in the last week and says he has fines totalling thousands since summer.

Vinny says he normally moves weekly because he can’t afford the fuel to move every two nights.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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Bylaws should be monitored by those who make them

Posted on 09-07-2022 19:49 | By Get our roads

If the Council cant administer it’s own bylaws an ensure compliance then get rid of the bylaw. You should not have a bylaw and then ignore compliance. See nothing, do nothing. Not Council problem if they dont know. The more complaints, the more the Council will have to act and find solutions, so if the problem is irking you, complain about it. Make sure it’s on Council records so they cant deny knowing about it.


Posted on 08-07-2022 07:42 | By Graize

We live near taylors reserve and had visitors in a fully compliant camper come to visit they didnt feel safe at taylors so parked oposite our place and for that recieved a fine how can council condone people not abiding by rule in designated overnight areas

What's the point?

Posted on 06-07-2022 13:07 | By morepork

A man who can’t afford to get fuel for his vehicle has fines worth thousands of dollars issued against him. Council will never see that money and if they confiscate the vehicle, we just add to the homeless without shelter. The idea of a public shower complex would not be feasible, in my opinion. It will be vandalized and smashed, incurring more expense. Maybe a Council subsidized reduced entry to the facilities at Bay Wave and/or the Hot Pools might be more useful. Maybe people who are unwilling or unable to comply with Freedom Camping rules, should simply lose that privilege and be removed if they park illegally. Homelessness requires a much bigger investigation and effort than is described here. If we can spend $300 million on the CBD facelift, why can’t we erect some prefabs to provide warm, dry, shelter for homeless people in Winter?

Living on the street

Posted on 06-07-2022 09:02 | By Local Too

I have noticed alot more people living in vans, cars etc in Tauranga. Where was the promised housing Ardern said they are going to build? Just another failure from Labour.


Posted on 05-07-2022 21:19 | By terry hall

more council crap, and the staff that work there, Tauranga council need a good staff sort out, if they were running a private enterprize they would be gone long ago


Posted on 05-07-2022 19:12 | By Muzza1

There has been a homeless guy sleeping occasionally in his car on Marine Parade between Clyde and Hart St for at least two weeks so Taylors Reserve isn’t the only place with this problem.

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