Freedom campers spark toilet debateSave
By Simon Waters
A proposed new riverside toilet facility hangs in the balance as members of the Whanganui District Council's Property and Community Services committee grapple with how best to cater for growing numbers of freedom campers.
With funding already in the kitty and concept drawings done the new facility is proposed to be built in the former dangerous goods store near the Tram Shed on Taupo Quay.
Property manager Leighton Toy told a meeting on Tuesday the site was considered a good restoration project that could be converted into a 24/7 public toilet facility and that $128,000 had been carried over for the project from the last financial year.
"The project has however received less favourable feedback from some elected members, and further consideration by elected members is required before council officers either progress with this project or remove this from our works programme," Mr Toy said.
Concept plans show a three stall facility with provision for a shower to be added. Mayor Hamish McDouall did not take part in the discussion after declaring that his wife, a registered architect, was engaged to prepare the plans.
Lyn Cheyne, from Whanganui and Partners, said the new facility was needed to service growing numbers of freedom campers in the area. She presented research showing indicative numbers and movements of freedom campers with the riverside area a popular stop-over point.
Freedom campers generally spent more than other visitors and were good for the city. "They are extremely valuable to any community - very valuable visitors to us," Ms Cheyne said. But without suitable facilities council faced problems with rubbish, hygeine and attractivesness, she said.
The iSite toilet facilities were at capacity with freedom campers using the facility to wash and clean their teeth. It was also not possible to keep the facility open after hours due to its location inside the iSite building.
Councillor Kate Joblin argued that council needed a policy on freedom campers before it could make a decision about the new facility. "If we want to spend money well, we need a strategy," she said.
Councillor Rob Vinsen also argued against the project, saying the former dangerous goods store was a prime location that could be put to better use and suggested that alternative sites be explored. The Tram Shed for example was designed to have public toilets added which would cost less to build than a standalone facility, he said.
Mainstreet spoke in favour of a 24 hour facility and councillor Hadleigh Reid supported the project saying visitors to Whanganui should leave having had a positive experience and should be catered to.
Committee chair Helen Craig said the proposal needed more work and that after one hour of discussion the item will be carried forward to a future meeting.