Holidaymakers planning to freedom camp in Whangarei over summer are encouraged to consider making alternative arrangements if they want to be sure of a place to stay.
"Temporary closure of two popular Whangarei freedom camping sites has increased pressure on the district’s already oversubscribed ‘first-come, first-served’ sites," says Whangarei Mayor, Sheryl Mai.
"With large numbers of domestic and local freedom campers now filling the gap left by international tourists, those yet to secure a commercial or Department of Conservation campground site may miss out."
Whangarei’s large, central city Cobham Oval carpark will be closed for maintenance over summer and unavailable to freedom campers, while the well-used overflow carpark area at Ocean Beach on the Whangarei Heads Peninsula will close to freedom camping from Saturday, December 19, to Friday, January 15.
"These carparks are usually packed with freedom campers during summer, so their temporary closures will intensify demand at Whangarei’s remaining freedom camping sites where securing a space is not guaranteed at the best of times," Sheryl says.
On the positive side, Mayor Mai adds that the temporary closures offer holidaymakers a chance to bring much-needed support to Whangarei’s commercial campgrounds hit hard by COVID-19 lockdowns and borders closed to international tourists.
"Booking a break at one of our well-appointed, well-provisioned commercial campgrounds gives these businesses the custom they need to find their feet again," Sheryl says.
"Of course, it also ensures a place to pitch a tent or park a campervan in Whangarei over summer, whereas leaving your holiday to chance by freedom camping doesn’t."
Whangarei Top 10 Holiday Park manager Nick Blake agrees, although he suggests campers book at commercial campgrounds as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
"Whangarei’s holiday park operators welcome summer campers with open arms after this particularly challenging year," Nick says.
"However, many already report heavy bookings for the peak summer holiday period, especially in the weeks around Christmas and New Year, so securing a site sooner rather than later is advised."
Certified self-contained campers are also reminded they may legally park for up to three nights anywhere in Whangarei District where parking or camping aren’t prohibited, provided they use their onboard facilities and are considerate of residents and road users. A list of prohibited areas is available on Council’s website at: www.wdc.govt.nz, and campers are also urged to check freedom campsite restrictions on signage as they arrive to avoid the possibility of a $200 fine.
"With its beaches, bush and endless summer festival vibe, Whangarei was designed with summer fun in mind and we want everyone to enjoy their holiday here," Sheryl says.
"For freedom campers, that simply means making sure they have a place to stay before getting out to experience everything else our District has to offer."