Why Kevin’s quitting Tauranga

Kevin Steedman and his ticket. Photo: Tracy Hardy.

Kevin Steedman’s had a gutsful – he’s quitting his job, packing up his nine metre motor home and leaving town.

 “I am leaving because I have to – they have made it impossible for me to stay.”

They being the Tauranga City Council and its new no-nonsense attitude to freedom campers.

And the defining moment was 12.25am last Sunday morning. That was the exact time a patrolling TCC enforcement officer slapped a $200 infringement notice on Kevin’s windscreen. “It’s not possible for me to live under this regime.”

Home for Kevin is a fully-spec’d, fully-certified, fully-ticketed Hino cream, green and brown motor home. And he’s NZCMA warranted.

“I was in a designated camping spot at Kulim Park. You are allowed to stay two nights and this was my second night. So whoever did this was coming down hard. Not only are they ticketing us for doing things illegally, but they are ticketing us randomly.”

Then Wednesday, the council indicated Kevin’s ticket may be waived. It may’ve been a mistake, they told him.

“Yeah, I was angry and I told them I was a truck driver and if I make a mistake, someone dies.”

The council introduced the $200 instant fines to bring freedom campers under control – to put a stop to uncertified vehicles, to stop freedom campers overstaying their welcome and to stop crowding at some locations.  The council’s conciliatory and educational approach hadn’t worked.

“If legal motor home owners are adhering to the rules, they have nothing to worry about,” says the council’s bylaws and parking man, Stuart Goodman. Kevin Steedman says he did play by the rules but he still got an infringement notice.

“I can’t be moving every other day,” says Kevin. “My bus is nine metres long, there are few parks that can accommodate a vehicle of this size and so I am pretty much screwed.” He lives on his own in the bus and work is here or there for the Mount Maunganui truck driver who’s confident he will find himself a job where he’s made to feel welcome. So that’s made the decision to leave easier.

Kevin says before the new rules, the council always told him they weren’t worried about the local mobile homers. And he stayed one step ahead of the law. “I always moved on before the council said you are taking the piss, you have been here too long.” He generally bounced between the Whareora boat ramp and Sulphur Point 

But a mobile homer up and quitting town won’t trigger an outcry of sympathy from ratepayers. “Depends.” says Kevin. “Some people like us, some people don’t mind us while others hate us. But no business would want to see money leaving town.”

Kevin also points the finger at the tourists. “If we get a ticket we pay,” says Kevin. ”But if you were leaving town or the country next week would you pay the $200? The council won’t get the money from the people it’s targeted at because they will just laugh it off and bugger off.”

The council says there’s no evidence of this. Since the beginning of June it’s issued 188 offence notices worth nearly $38,000.  

Kevin Steedman, the fully-ticketed motor homer, doesn’t want something for nothing – he’s willing and happy to pay his way, to be a contributor to Tauranga, his home of 10 years. “I had a job, I paid my taxes like everyone else. So I would be prepared to pay for a resident’s permit to park my bus – perhaps $200 or $300. The council guy said that’s a bloody good idea.”

But not Stuart Goodman, the bylaws and parking team leader. “A permit would encourage people to live in their vans and the number of complaints would increase.”

A defeated Kevin Steedman says “The whole issue has consumed me and that’s not how I like to spend my time. So my destiny is set somewhere else now.” The nine metre Hino motor home is fueled up and pointed out of town.