Freedom campers in Rotorua: It’s a great way to travel

Freedom campers enjoying Rotorua say they follow the rules and the practice is a good way to travel.

German friends Tanja Gentz and Mary Koch camped at the lakefront by the yacht club last night.

They are five months into their six-month journey around New Zealand. It’s a journey they have done entirely out of the back of a van.

Gentz said it was a great way to travel.

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“It’s creative. You learn to appreciate things a lot more. Like hot showers.”

Although different parts of the country had different rules for freedom camping, Koch said that wasn’t particularly confusing.

“We just Google where we can and can’t stay.”

The pair said they found places to shower and stay using a phone app called Campermate. Gentz said it was a popular app among freedom campers.

They said they mainly used the cold, but free, showers on beaches or paid a small fee to use those in aquatic centres. When it came to doing washing, they used laundromats.

Freedom campers in Rotorua came under the spotlight this week when one group was spotted with their washing strung between trees in Kuirau Park which is not a designated freedom camping spot.

Gentz said she’d seen similar things on her journey and didn’t think it was much of an issue if it didn’t affect the environment.

Anne-line Bechu was also camped at the lakefront by the yacht club with her travel companion.

The French couple were near the start of their trip to New Zealand and Bechu said they were enjoying the experience.

“It’s less expensive. We can travel and not waste a lot of money.

“We are close to 30 years old and we want to travel before we settle down.”

Bechu said she also used Campermate and having a vehicle gave them more freedom.

“We don’t have to book buses and we can get to places where the bus doesn’t go.”

The pair also used laundromats for doing washing. Their vehicle had a kitchen, storage and space for a mattress.

Another person at the lakefront had a solar shower for times of need.

Rotorua does not have a freedom camping bylaw but the Government is looking at the issue nationwide.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick previously said freedom camping had not been much of an issue this year and she planned to provide input into discussions being led by the new tourism minister.

She said a national approach would make things clear and simple.

“The current Freedom Camping Act is very permissive and local bylaws aren’t necessarily the answer.”

Chadwick said the council was actively working on hotspots in Rotorua.

Regional Tourism New Zealand executive officer Charles Ives said some freedom campers gave others a bad name.

He said freedom campers were an important part of the mix of visitors attracted to New Zealand.

“There is a wide diversity of people who camp for a variety of reasons including visitors, seasonal workers, and New Zealanders who own their own motor-homes and the vast majority of freedom campers do so responsibly,” Ives said.

He said a lot of issues were a result of campers not knowing the rules because they differed between regions.

New Zealand News

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