New approach to cracking down on freedom campers

Published: August 15, 2016

News type: National news   

Freedome camping picLocal government and Tourism Holdings Limited (THL) are partnering to launch a freedom camping infringements trial in response to campervan rental hirers who break freedom camping laws.

The Thames-Coromandel and Queenstown-Lakes district councils are partnering with THL, operating the Maui, Britz and Mighty rental campervan brands, to trial a voluntary scheme to help collect infringement fees incurred by hirers who flout freedom camping laws. 

While local councils acknowledge the good behaviour of many, the poor behaviour of some freedom campers casts stigma over the whole practice and needs to be addressed.  Irresponsible use of public places, camping where prohibited, littering, incorrect disposal of human waste, and a poor level of knowledge by the campers are just some of the issues troubling local councils.

Incentivising the right behaviour is proving to be a challenge, as is collection of unpaid infringement fines.  At present, infringement fines are not tagged to the rental vehicle and many infringement fines are unpaid when people leave the country.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) President Lawrence Yule says that support from the tourism industry is imperative to successfully 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.

Grant Webster, CEO, Tourism Holdings Limited agrees there is a problem and says, “We believe in the benefits that motorhome tourism brings to areas that are off the mainstream tourist routes.  We have taken a strong educational approach to responsible camping to date; ensuring customers have the Campermate app at hand that informs them of all approved designated overnight parking spots, commercial campsites and DOC sites.  We are now happy to work with councils to take this a step further and help collect infringement fees for those that ignore the wide range of approved overnight options available to our rental motorhome customers”.

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 last month.

Local Government Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga has announced the Government is considering ways to improve the management of freedom camping.  A review will consider widening the infringement powers available to councils, and will also look at the different approaches councils are taking to freedom camping.

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