Free camping may stir up more tourist dollars

By CAITLIN NOBES

Freedom campers have a bad reputation for treating the landscape as their rubbish bin and lavatory, but managed well they can be a benefit to a region.
Representatives from local councils, Department of Conservation (DoC) and holiday parks met this week to discuss the best way to cope with visitors who slept in vehicles and parked where they chose.
The New Zealand Freedom Camping Forum was working with communities around the country to maximise opportunities and minimise problems from vehicle-based camping.
Forum chairman and Tourism Industry Association advocacy manager Geoff Ensor led the meetings. The forum had developed a strong campaign at the national level, but communities and councils would need to work together to build on it.
He was encouraging communities to work with neighbouring regions, to achieve a strong, consistent approach to freedom camping. Well-managed camping could bring more tourist dollars into the region by encouraging visitors to spend more during their stay.
"The forum is anxious that campers continue to be welcomed and enjoy good experiences in our regions," Mr Ensor said.
Hawke's Bay Wine Country Tourism Association executive officer Megan Harris said there were problem areas in Hawke's Bay with campers staying around Awatoto and other coastal areas.
"There can be problems from people not respecting the environment and leaving rubbish," she said. "They are getting something for free that other people are paying for."
The local meeting decided to set up a regional group to consider freedom camping in Hawke's Bay, which would be organised by Wine Country Tourism.


Having a national message and consistent rules would make it easier for travellers to know where to stay and for communities to manage travellers.
Campers could be a benefit for the region if it was managed right because they would bring more tourist dollars into the Bay.
"We have to acknowledge that freedom camping is part of the appeal of New Zealand," Ms Harris said.
"It's about finding the opportunities and deciding what sort of enforcement is appropriate."
A national focus on education included the majority of campervan rental operators recommending their clients stay in holiday parks, DoC camping areas or other designated camping areas. Similar messages were included in the latest Lonely Planet and Rough Guides New Zealand editions.
Local Government New Zealand was also developing a national enforcement regime to tackle problem camping.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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