Legislation to clamp down on freedom campers

The Freedom Camping bill will be introduced to Parliament this month. Photo / Thinkstock
The Freedom Camping bill will be introduced to Parliament this month. Photo / Thinkstock

Freedom campers could face $200 instant fines for illegal camping or fines of up to $10,000 for illegally dumping campervan waste under a proposed new law.

The Freedom Camping Bill will be introduced to Parliament this month with the measures to be in place ahead of the Rugby World Cup, Environment Minister Nick Smith announced today.

Dr Smith said freedom camping was important to the tourism industry and the New Zealand lifestyle, but irresponsible campers were spoiling iconic areas with human waste and litter.

The number of freedom campers had doubled in the past decade to 40,000 local and 110,000 international campers.

"The existing system where each of our 67 districts has its own bylaws is not working for the responsible freedom camper wanting to do the right thing or for councils wanting to protect their local environment," Dr Smith said.

The new law would enable councils to determine where camping was allowed, where it was restricted to campervans with self-containment, and where it was prohibited.

The Department of Conservation would be able to introduce similar rules on its reserves.

The proposed law would include practical enforcement measures and introduce nationally consistent signage and a website showing where people could camp nationally.

Illegal campers would be slapped with a $200 instant fine, to be imposed on the camper or the vehicle.

Courts would be able to impose fines of up to $10,000 for illegally discharging a campervan's sewage, and new regulations would require campervan hire companies to record and disclose details so fines could be enforced.

Dr Smith said there needed to be national consistency because freedom campers were mostly unaware of what district they were in from one day to the next.

"But we also want to protect the rights of local communities to decide where freedom camping is to be allowed."

The Government would work hard with councils to ensure the new laws were in place for the 85,000 visitors expected for the Rugby World Cup, which would help protect the environment and New Zealand's "clean, green tourism brand".

- NZPA

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