The updated Queenstown Lakes District Council Freedom (QLDC) Camping Bylaw 2019 was adopted at a council meeting on December 12 to replace the QLDC Freedom Camping Control Bylaw 2012.
With consultation opening in October, just two months before the expiration of the old law, the statement of proposal outlined that the 2019 bylaw would “adopt the same approach as the current bylaw, but be drafted in a more simplified way.”
It had increased the areas in which freedom camping was prohibited to include new and growing residential areas such as the Shotover Country, Cardrona, Hāwea and Northlake in Wānaka, alongside two sections of road identified as “hotspots” for freedom campers where environmental harm had occurred. These were Glenorchy Road between Queenstown and Glenorchy, and the Wānaka-Mt Aspiring Road between Wānaka and Glendhu Bay.
There had been long-standing debate around freedom camping restrictions in the area, and the risks freedom camping posed to the surrounding environment. Almost two years ago, QLDC promised to take a “hard line” to tackle the problem when it opened proposed new restrictions up for consultation.
“The issue has grown to a stage where immediate action is called for by the community, and Council has moved to act,” read the announcement. However, concerns were raised by locals when the steps taken included very little actual immediate action in Wānaka, only on the lakefront.
But the problems with freedom campers could now be on the decline, according to the Otago Daily Times. In January, Simon Henderson reported that “freedom campers have cleaned up their act and are causing fewer problems across the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts this summer.”
QLDC media and channels adviser Jack Barlow confirmed that reported problems had decreased from last summer. “Fifty-seven complaints were received from November 2019 until January 2020, whereas 80 were received during the same period last year; 1,285 fines were issued from November 1, 2019 until January 29, 2020, whereas 1,347 fines were issued for the same period last year,” he said.