Camping Ambassadors Kept Busy
Hurunui’s Freedom Camping Ambassadors have had a busy summer thanks to high visitor numbers in the Cheviot area.
Freedom Camping Ambassadors are a new role in the Hurunui and funded by the Ministry of Business Employment (MBIE) and Innovation to engage with freedom campers in Cheviot’s popular coastal locations of Gore Bay, Nape Nape and other hot spots.
Previously Freedom Camping concerns were dealt with by district council officers who were required to drive long distances to attend complaints in the area. By employing local ambassadors, there are more opportunities to educate and inform freedom campers on what their options are, while saving rate-payer dollars. The ambassador’s time, vehicle and employment costs are covered by the MBIE funding.
Ambassadors, Nukuroa and Heidi Tirikatene-Nash share the 20 hour per week position, visiting popular locations in the evenings when Freedom Campers are setting up for the night. They have used the role as a chance to engage and educate campers on their responsibilities and to share their love of the area with them. When required, they will enforce the council’s by-laws which prevents freedom camping except for designated sites in Cheviot township, Gore Bay and Nape Nape.
Their experiences have been largely positive with overseas visitors happy to comply with camping by-laws and wishing to fit in with Kiwi culture. “Many visitors are really thankful to be in the country and want to be good kaitiaki and responsible travellers,” says Nukuroa.
As tangata whenua, visitors have appreciated the cultural interaction with Nukuroa and many special connections have been made.
“We’re mindful that we are part of a visitor’s travel experience in Hurunui so we try to get them on-board to work with us, and for them to have enjoyed meeting us. We’ve had people say they have left the West Coast and Queenstown to return to the Hurunui as it was such a great travel experience.”
As ambassadors, Nukuroa and Heidi direct a lot of business back into the community by sending people to nearby camping grounds, or to the allocated Freedom Camping sites. They always give people options for moving on which has been very successful.
“There are always people who want to try it on, and it’s surprising how well informed and how precise the questions are from campers who wish to interpret the freedom camping by-laws in their favour. Most of the concerns are with New Zealander’s who have less tolerance to compliance,’ says Nukuroa.
Hurunui District Council’s Compliance Team Leader, Andrew Brown, says the Freedom Camping Ambassadors programme has gone well, with improved behaviour amongst freedom campers and a reduction in complaints from the areas where ambassadors have been working this summer.