Freedom camping bill eased to shield tired drivers

By Derek Cheng

Photo / Sarah Ivey
Photo / Sarah Ivey

A bill cracking down on freedom campers who sleep on roadsides and leave waste all over the country has been softened to ensure it will not capture tired drivers who pull over for a power nap.

The Freedom Camping Bill has also been tightened so people "making preparations" to freedom-camp where it is prohibited will no longer be liable for fines up to $10,000.

But concern remains that outdoor enthusiasts might still be caught by the bill if they head away late on a Friday night and camp on the roadside before a weekend of hiking, mountaineering, fishing or hunting.

The bill is being swiftly pushed through Parliament so it can be in place for the Rugby World Cup at the start of September.

"Increasing numbers of people are freedom camping in unsuitable places such as beaches and carparks, and leaving behind refuse, including human waste," a select committee report said. "This is offensive to people, creates a public health hazard and undermines New Zealand's image as a clean, green tourist destination."

The bill would allow councils to create areas where freedom camping is banned - though it has been watered down to prevent blanket bans across entire local territories.

It would set up a fee of $200 - adjustable by regulation - for freedom campers who camp where they are not allowed to, or do not properly dispose of waste, such as leaving faecal matter in a rubbish bin.

Those who litter in a way likely to cause significant damage or significant concern to a local community could face a $10,000 fine.

The definition of freedom camping has also been tightened to within 200m - originally 1km - of a road, road end or the low-water line of the sea or harbour.

Many of the submissions on the bill expressed concern that fatigued drivers sleeping in their cars could be caught in areas where freedom camping is banned, so the committee has specifically exempted "temporary and short-term parking", day-trip excursions, and resting or sleeping in a car.

- NZ Herald

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