Freedom camping more safely

Our Nursing students examined the unsustainable impact of freedom camping on the health and wellbeing of Cromwell seasonal workers.

Under the supervision of the nursing lecturers Dr Jean Ross and Josie Crawley, in 2017 groups of third year Bachelor of Nursing students undertook community health research projects for the Dunstan basin. One group focussed particularly on the Cromwell/Bannockburn area. The students performed community assessments, interviewed key gatekeepers of the community and developed their own conclusions of what the key health issues were from the community’s perspective.

The influx of seasonal workers over the summer pushes Cromwell’s accommodation to the limits. To save as much money as possible, many people opt to freedom camp in areas without hot water or with limited toilet facilities. This has risks for the health and wellbeing of Cromwell's seasonal workers. Seasonal workers from non-English-speaking countries can also be socially isolated.

The students' recommendations are:

  • Involve Public Health nurses in health education as part of employee orientation.
  • Negotiate with employers to provide more appropriate facilities for employees.
  • Provide cultural support and services, such as English classes, for better communication and understanding between locals and overseas workers.
  • Provide a comprehensive resource, compiling all information relevant to seasonal workers, into one easily-accessible online source.

The resources enabling change are already available in Cromwell, but in order for a sustainable effect to occur the community must be willing to reach out with these resources to the seasonal workers. The students' concluded that if the local council, health services, and employers came together to create a collaborative support system including health education, affordable accommodation, and appropriate facilities, evidence shows that the health and hygiene of seasonal workers would improve significantly. The outcome of this investigation can also be applied in a broader context across other areas of New Zealand.

Warwick Hawker, Economic Development Manager at Central Otago District Council, was pleased to receive a copy of the report:

it will prove to be a valuable resource both for the Council and the Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group as they make their respective contributions to managing the freedom camper issue.

Image credit: Shellie Evans, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

March 2018