Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick was one of 32 mayors who met with Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis today to discuss freedom camping.

At the meeting in Wellington the problem of freedom campers was assigned to a working group, to get under way as soon as next month. A law change was not ruled out.

After the meeting Chadwick told the Rotorua Daily Post she felt the city's position had been heard.

"One model that's working well for Rotorua, and which I shared at today's workshop, is at Lake Okareka, where the community manages a lakeside council reserve and the small fee charged to campers goes back into improvements," Chadwick said.


"It was great to hear from mayors from around the country and to be able to discuss an issue which we are all grappling with to some degree."

Chadwick said Rotorua was fortunate to have a large number of "excellent holiday parks" so "issues related to freedom camping aren't as big here as in some other locations".

"Active enforcement requires considerable resourcing and our first response is to try to move people on."

At the meeting Davis heard freedom camping horror stories. He said the problems would not be a quick fix.

"There's issues around the Freedom Camping Act itself, whether it needs to be looked at and whether it's still fit for purpose.

"Infrastructure is an issue. Consistency around messaging and signage."

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Davis said the possibility of law changes meant relief was probably 18 months away.

But the working group would also be asked to find other, quicker solutions.

"Freedom campers bring economic benefits to our regions, but the behaviour of a small percentage and the sheer increase in volume of freedom campers is causing real problems for some councils."

He said the mayors talked about the need for a consistent approach around enforcement and signage, infrastructure and the need to look at the Freedom Camping Act.

They also agreed freedom camping should be renamed managed or responsible camping.

Chadwick said a nationally consistent approach was required.

"[That can be] achieved through regulation and things like signage and education – while retaining the ability as local authorities to do what's needed and what works for us locally."

Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park owner Jasmine Adams said she was glad to hear action was being taken at central government level.

She said the holiday park sector wanted to be represented on the working group.

"It's great to have a pro-active minister pulling the councils together. I'm happy that they are moving forward but curious about what our council's role in it will be."

Local Government Minister Mahuta welcomed the establishment of the working group.

"The Government recognises that tourism is an important industry – it's our biggest export earner – but it's also important that councils have the necessary tools and powers to respond when their communities are feeling the impact of high visitor numbers."

Freedom camping:
- Over the last two years, international visitors who freedom camped spent an average of around $4700 and stayed around 51 days in New Zealand, compared with the average for all visitors of $3200 and 18 days.
- Over the last three years, international visitors who did some freedom camping spent an average of around $526 million a year in New Zealand.
_Over the past 10 years, the number of international visitors doing at least some freedom camping during their stay has risen from around 30,000 to 115,000 annually.
Kelvin Davis