The growth in freedom camping this summer has brought its negative impacts to a head and Local Government New Zealand welcomes Tourism Minister Hon Kelvin Davis’ invitation to mayors to discuss the issue.
Freedom camping has grown considerably in the last 10 years and continues to be a popular option for visitors and locals. The Minster has invited 22 mayors to meet with him in early March to discuss the key issues facing some communities as a result of this growth and begin working towards solutions for the next summer season.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says steps to minimise the impacts of freedom camping and ensure it remains a good experience for visitors are now urgent. This will require actions from councils and the Government and the talks are welcomed.
“While many freedom campers do respect the communities they visit there are a number of issues that come when there are so many of them. Councils and communities have been reporting problems as a result of freedom camping including with human waste, littering, overcrowding and access to reserves being blocked by campers.
“We need to make sure New Zealand is meeting the balance between the desire to be an attractive destination and a need to protect the environment and our communities,” Mr Cull says.
Mr Cull says it is time to modernise the Freedom Camping Act, which gives councils the ability to issue fines to travellers who breach by-laws, to ensure it is fit-for-purpose and effective and encourages a respectful and sustainable camping culture.
Across New Zealand councils have already implemented a range of tools including restricting access, enforcement of bylaws and education, however these measures have been challenged by the sharp growth of freedom camping.
“One of the key issues is changing the behaviour of some campers, and this could be helped by strengthening enforcement. Councils need to be able to enforce by-laws and ensure fines are paid, because at the moment there is nothing to stop those who do receive an infringement notice from leaving the country without paying it,” Mr Cull says. “This would go some way towards sending the message that freedom camping comes with certain rules and responsibilities.”
Appropriate infrastructure to support freedom camping, for example toilets and parking, and mechanisms to fund this, is also needed.