Hundreds of overseas tourists caught freedom camping illegally in the Queenstown Lakes area are leaving the country without paying the $200 fine.
In the year to the end of January, a third of the 2642 tourists issued with infringement notices chose the no-payment option - costing the council revenue of about $176,000.
Council regulatory manager Lee Webster said this week the council could recover the money quite simply if rental car companies were willing to charge tourists' credit cards.
Under section 29 of the Freedom Camping Act 2011, the companies had the legal ability to do so, and to charge an administration fee.
However, they chose not to, Mr Webster said, suggesting it was because they did not want to be seen as ''the bad guys''.
Instead, they passed contact details on to the council - but not credit card details - of tourists who had received infringement notices, leaving the council with the difficult task of collecting the money from overseas.
While rental car companies had the legal ability to deduct the fines from tourist credit cards, the council did not, Mr Webster said.
''If council had that ability, we would be doing it.''
It would assist councils if the legislation was changed to require rental car companies to collect fines, Mr Webster said.
''It's going to be a lot more straightforward if it was mandatory,'' Mr Webster said.
The ODT approached one of the biggest camper van companies for comment but received no response.
Mr Webster said the council did start working with United States company Violation Management Services, which offered to set up a company to act as ''middle man'' to collect fines.
However, over a six-month trial period, it collected only 20 infringement fees.
Tourists in camper vans without toilets on board are only permitted to camp in camping grounds in the Queenstown Lakes area.
Those with toilets on board are able to camp free on some council land, provided they meet certain conditions.
The QLDC is the only local authority in Otago to have issued the fines.
Dunedin City Council reserves and recreation planning team leader Richard Saunders said no fines had been issued to freedom campers since the council's bylaw on the issue was passed in 2013.
This was because the Dunedin policy was not as punitive or as restrictive as Queenstown's and Dunedin also did not have anyone specifically employed to catch rule-breaking freedom campers.
The Clutha District Council said it preferred low-level enforcement.
In the Central Otago and the Waitaki districts there were no bylaws relating to camping.