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Filling the freedom camping blanks in Kapiti

This summer Kapiti Coast District Council staff have been gathering information on freedom campers in Kapiti, with early results providing some useful insights into visitor behavior and experience.

As at mid-February Council staff surveyed more than 100 freedom campers to learn more about where they are from, what attracts them to Kapiti, and how long and where they stay.

Surveying will continue through March.

The work to build a better understanding of freedom camping in Kapiti is being supported by funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment which granted Council $90,000 to assist with information gathering, on-the-ground monitoring and education with campers, and for improved signage.

Environmental standards manager Jacquie Muir says the research will help fill in knowledge gaps and inform possible future options for how freedom camping is managed in the district.

"We’re keen to better understand the freedom camping scene in Kapiti so that as a Council and community we can make good decisions about how we manage what is a very real part of the New Zealand tourism offering," says Jacquie.

"Freedom camping is enabled by government legislation and councils across the country are responsible for managing it in their districts in a way that meets the expectations of their communities.

"What we’re learning is that most of those freedom camping throughout summer have been young travelers from Europe, predominantly staying for one night, and drawn to Ka¬Åpiti by our beautiful coastline and natural environment."

Of the people spoken to 70 per cent are from overseas (predominantly Germany) while 12 per cent are from the Wellington area, 68 per cent say they freedom camp to explore New Zealand and 84 per cent stay just one night.

The survey also showed freedom campers span a range of ages, with the 25-34 age group accounting for 33 per cent of campers, 18-24 and 35-44 20 per cent each, and over 65s 14 per cent.

Campers were also asked a range of other questions including their preferred activities and where they find information.

"Gathering this information provides us with a solid base and is a step towards finding an approach to freedom camping that works for Kapiti and the people who visit us," says Jacquie.

"We’ll continue surveying for a few more weeks to build our knowledge and will share further findings in due course."

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