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Matheson Bay Freedom / Free Rein Camping

by Peter Spence,
As a resident of Matheson Bay, we participated in the trial for Auckland Council, which moved the camping to the grassed area accessed by Matheson Bay. The community saw this as a positive event. However, post the trial, freedom camping has become unfettered. On Anniversary Weekend, we have had up to 27 vans [and some tents] on the reserve [which by Rodney bylaws should hold 6 only].

Over all the time of freedom camping, the missing ingredient has been management by Council; now it has reached the stage that unfettered camping has lost the community support - unsustainable numbers; poor hygiene and personal waste disposal; abuse of the council facilities [eg washing up oily cooking items in the toilet/washroom area] and failure to abide by reserve regulations. Now the community has lost any wish to support freedom camping and are thrilled that the Reserves Act will allow Matheson Bay reserve to return to use for daytrippers, along with a promise by Rodney Local Board to have Compliance Officers to manage parking, water usage, jet skis, litter, behaviour etc. A great outcome.

Now our concern is that Rodney Local Board might still be able to override Auckland Council's Freedom Camping Act and legislate for specific local area freedom camping.

Also frustrating was that the Council Rangers worked 9-5, Monday to Friday - the worst times for Freedom camping Management are Friday evening to Sunday afternoon - and never a ranger available. Our local observations were that at no time did Council staff see the Matheson Bay van influx and the abuse of the reserve area - where locals have planted almost 4,000 native trees over three annual days, assisted with great support by the Council's Volunteer conservation officers.

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