Published: September 14, 2016
Kiwi campervan company JUCY Rentals has joined a trial aimed at ensuring freedom campers act responsibly while travelling in New Zealand.
While most freedom campers respect the communities they visit the poor behaviour of a few has tarnished the perception of the whole practice.
For local authorities incentivising the right behaviour for that minority is proving to be a challenge, as is collection of unpaid infringement fines. At present, infringements are not tagged to the rental vehicle and many fines are unpaid when people leave the country.
In a trial launched last month between the Thames-Coromandel and Queenstown-Lakes district councils and Tourism Holdings Limited - operators of the Maui, Britz and Mighty rental campervan brands - the company is helping the councils collect infringement fees incurred by hirers who flout freedom camping laws.
The scheme sees fines issued to campers tagged to the vehicle they are travelling in. When they return the vehicle they are reminded of the fine by the company and directed to the relevant council website where they can to pay it immediately and avoid an administration fee.
Queenstown-Lakes District Council regulatory manager Lee Webster says the council is already seeing good results despite the scheme’s infancy and its launch in the tourism sector’s shoulder season.
“We’ve had a really positive start so far,” Webster says.
“While the number of infringements is small at the moment, it is very encouraging to see an increase in the number of tickets being paid. This is something that our community would otherwise have missed out on, as the customers have paid online as a direct result of speaking to THL staff when they’ve returned their vehicle.”
Now JUCY is getting on board.
JUCY CEO Tim Alpe says freedom camping is a valuable contributor to the economy but it is important that those who don’t behave responsibly meet their obligations.
“There’s a small group of travellers who freedom camp irresponsibly that spoil it for other travellers,” Alpe says.
“Currently, there is a belief among this group that they’re able to leave the country without paying their fines. JUCY hopes that joining this trial will help create awareness that these fines do need to be paid. It will also give us an opportunity to give customers a friendly reminder that they can easily avoid an additional administration charge if they pay their fines before departing.”
Local Government New Zealand President Lawrence Yule says support from the tourism industry is needed to improve the management of freedom camping in communities throughout New Zealand.
“Tourism operators have multiple touchpoints with tourists and as such are perfectly placed for assisting local councils with educating customers, enforcement and collection of fines,” Mr Yule says.
Councils called for changes to the Freedom Camping Act 2011 in a remit presented by South Island councils at the Local Government New Zealand conference in July.
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