Freedom camping: Are stronger fines tough enough?

Pictured: Freedom campers at Diamond Lake earlier this year, where camping is restricted to self-contained vehicles only.  Photo: Richie Johnston

Tougher freedom camping legislation proposed by the government last week needs clarifying, Wanaka’s regional tourism organisation has said.

Prime Minister Bill English visited Wanaka and Queenstown last Friday (August 25), where he made the announcement about plans to introduce stricter rules for freedom campers.

These included instant, on-the-spot fines and restricting non-self-contained vehicles to parking within 200 metres of toilet facilities.

All councils and the Department of Conservation (DOC) currently have the power to ban freedom campers from certain areas, but the new legislation would extend these to other government agencies including Land Information NZ and the New Zealand Transport Agency so that Crown land could be included.

Lake Wanaka Tourism’s (LWT) general manager James Helmore said that these extended powers would ensure consistency, complete coverage and the ability to enforce the rules.

“Based on the feedback I’ve had from our community, the current enforcement level needs to be increased significantly to act as a significant deterrent,” James said.

James added that further clarification was needed on whether current and proposed enforcement levels would be enough to discourage undesirable behaviour.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said she had also received feedback from council staff about the struggle they face in encouraging freedom campers to comply with the rules because they lack the ability to enforce real penalties.

Queenstown Lakes District Council web and digital communications advisor Jimmy Sygrove said that the rate of payment across the district for freedom camping infringements was just over 50 percent.

Mrs Dean said that the new system of fines would require them to be paid on the spot, or they would be assigned to vehicle owners, including rental companies.

“These fines would give DOC and council enforcement staff the muscle they have been asking for when it comes to encouraging responsible freedom camping,” Mrs Dean said.

James said that further clarification was also needed on the most appropriate provision of space and facilities for freedom camping in the region.

“Is it the current situation, where you can literally camp anywhere outside the urban centres, or should that be flipped on its head and freedom camping only be allowed in specific areas?” he said.

He added that this is an issue that was currently being considered by the council.

Pictured: Freedom campers at Diamond Lake earlier this year, where camping is restricted to self-contained vehicles only.  Photo: Richie Johnston

RELATED:

WATCH: Disgust at mess left by freedom campers (Posted 15 Apr, 2017) 

Freedom camping fines ‘enough’ (Posted 30 Apr, 2017)

Funding welcomed as freedom camping fines soar (Posted 18 May, 2017)

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