Storm clouds over freedom camping 'birthright'

By Anna Rushworth

Traveller Stacey Smith says campsites cost too much. Photo / Janna Dixon
Traveller Stacey Smith says campsites cost too much. Photo / Janna Dixon

Freedom camping could become anything but under proposals designed to stop tourists disrespecting their surroundings.

The moves, which would apply to domestic and international holidaymakers, would see travellers who hire non self-contained vehicles told to use designed camping areas - rather than park and pitch a tent at a beach or forest that took their fancy.

Offenders could face an instant fine as part of the plan, spearheaded by the Tourism Industry Association.

Association advocacy manager Geoff Ensor said the right to freedom camp was a "New Zealand birthright" which he didn't want banned, but action had to be taken to protect the environment - and our international image.

A list of 30 actions to be undertaken by rental vehicle operators, councils and tourism organisations was agreed at a meeting in Auckland.

It was called after a surge in complaints about freedom campers, especially in the South Island.

In Kaikoura locals were aghast to learn a freedom camper had used a pa site as a toilet. In Wanaka residents set up roadblocks to stop freedom campers parking near the Cardrona River and dumping rubbish.

And Hawea Community Association president Rachel Brown said locals blocked access to parts of Lake Hawea after finding evidence of travellers using the area as a toilet.

"It's absolutely disgusting. Everywhere you look there's just piles of faeces, toilet paper and used tampons."

Nelson residents have complained about the number of campervans parking in the town centre, prompting Mayor Kerry Marshall to call for regulation.

However Taupo Mayor Rick Cooper encourages freedom camping in the region - and plans to open more areas around central Turangi for campers to enjoy.

"We've got the Rugby World Cup next year, what are we trying to do? Scare people away?"

Cheap and enjoyable

Stacey Smith says freedom camping in New Zealand is cheap and enjoyable.

The 23-year-old Londoner has been touring in a campervan for two months with her boyfriend Tony Hunwick.

They've freedom camped around Lake Taupo and on beaches.

She said many people avoided campsites because of the cost. One campground charged them $42 for the night, $4 for using the washing machine and $1 each for a shower: "You're paying over $40 just to park your van up."

Freedom camping gave them more cash to enjoy attractions like bars and cafes.

- Herald on Sunday

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