Veteran traveller's plea: leave us be

Traveller Beck Ritchie relaxes outside his caravan parked in the Ocean View Recreation Reserve freedom camping site last week. - Photo: Supplied / ODT

The "policing public'' who persecute travellers need to mind their own business, a Dunedin man says.

Traveller Beck Ritchie, 63, said he had been parking his home - a bus, truck or caravan - overnight on public land "on and off'' since the age of 18.

"This is my way of life.''

Once the public congratulated a traveller on their way of life and welcomed them to a town, but the mood had changed in recent years.

Now the "policing public'' persecuted travellers.

"This is a plea to the public - relax a bit and mind your own business - it's not a problem.''

No longer could a traveller stop for the night in a "gorgeous spot'', leave the site in a better state than they found it in and stay on the right side of the public.

"Now they say `move on you b*****d, you're not allowed to camp here'.''

Mr Ritchie failed to comprehend why someone would be offended by someone wanting to stop at a site to sleep.

He was often harassed when he stopped at a site for the day, even if he had no intention of staying the night.

He wondered if he would cop the same amount of abuse if he owned a fancier caravan.

"They don't consider it part of the view, they believe it obstructs the view ... it's a matter of attitude.''

A reason for the shift in mood towards travellers came after regular negative publicity on freedom camping.

All his travelling friends had self-contained vehicles and were unhappy when a freedom camper left a site worse than when they arrived.

Dunedin's bylaw

The Dunedin City Council's Camping Control Bylaw applies to Dunedin residents, domestic visitors and international visitors.

Travellers in certified self-contained vehicles could overnight camp on any council sealed or gravelled surfaces set aside for parking.

Unrestricted sites were available to ensure campers without self-contained vehicles were staying in ''proximity to adequate ablutions''.

Source : Dunedin City Council Parks and Cemetery manager Scott Maclean

This story first appeared in the Otago Daily Times

By Shawn McAvinue for the Otago Daily Times