The 2019/20 summer season has proven to be a busy one for Gisborne District Council, with big increases in freedom camping infringements and requests for service.
The council has issued 41 fines to people who have flouted its freedom camping bylaw since October 1 last year, up from just three fines in the same period the year before.
Most of the $200 fines were issued to people who had parked in areas where freedom camping was not allowed, monitoring and compliance team leader Kate Sykes said.
The council also received reports of vehicles that were not self-contained being used for freedom camping, as well as vehicles being parked in one location for more than three days.
The increase in fines has been put down to the two wardens the council employed to monitor freedom and summer campers in the region, after receiving $325,905 from the Government’s responsible camping fund for 2019/20.
“With extra staff, we have been able to monitor consistently, night and day,” Ms Sykes said.
The increased presence had improved compliance, as people knew wardens would be back to check on campsites regularly, she said.
Wardens were also able to answer campers’ questions and provide information, which made it easier for people to stick to the rules.
As well as freedom camping, the council runs campsites in eight locations throughout the district from September to April.
It is undertaking a review of its camping rules, with any changes to be made in time for the 2020/21 season.
Campers were encouraged this summer to report rule-breaking to the council via the GDC Fix app, which went live on December 2.
It was hoped the free app would be downloaded 500 times and that 500 requests for service would be received through it by the end of February.
Customer engagement manager Anita Reedy-Holthausen said the targets had been met, with 887 downloads and 641 requests sent via the app.
The most common issues reported via the app were related to council parks and facilities, including graffiti, rubbish and damage to signs or equipment, Ms Reedy-Holthausen said.
Overall, 5051 requests for service were lodged with the council this summer – 731 more than it received between December 2018 and February last year.
The increase in service requests – up 17 percent on the 2018/19 season – suggested that people who had not lodged requests in the past were using the app, Ms Reedy-Holthausen said.
The app allows users to attach pictures of an issue and locate it on a map, and those details are automatically collated in an email sent to the person assigned to fix it.
That made requests received via the app easier to process, Ms Reedy-Holthausen said.