Freedom camping group supported
Some of Central Otago’s newest local body representatives are hopeful a government initiative will give councils more power to deal with freedom campers this summer.
Local Government Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga has commissioned a new joint working group to look at the way freedom camping is managed and regulated. The working group is made up of 40 council officers and central government officials.
Central Otago Mayor-elect Tim Cadogan said the Central Otago District Council was not involved with the working group. However, the importance of an effective balance between welcoming freedom campers and addressing their impact had been met by council which had taken a lead role in developing a strategy specific to this region.
‘‘Effective discussions with primary landowners has developed a joint strategy that showed its worth over the last busy summer season. The council actually owns only a small fraction of the favoured freedom camping spots in Central, making enforcement through bylaw of limited effect.’’
Otago Regional councillor Michael Laws said he was confident the initiative would give councils more powers, including much more satisfactory enforce- ment regimes.
‘‘Some rental van companies need to smarten up their act too. Giving local councils greater powers and enforcement will be a good thing.’’
Virtually everyone in the tourism industry, and in local and central government, conceded there was a problem around ‘‘socalled freedom camping’’. Many councils had acted unilaterally to restrict freedom camping in their cities with some contemplating complete bans, he said.
Otago Regional councillor Maggie Lawton said she welcomed the joint initiative which should lead to some recommendations for improvement. However, it would not combat the problem on its own.
‘‘That will help, but it is unlikely that regulation alone will combat the problem, however well it is enforced. It needs a multi-pronged approach which includes key players in the tourism industry. In addition, some research I carried out a few years ago into this problem indicated that freedom campers are not the only culprits. Solutions do exist that could significantly reduce this problem, a concerted effort is required.’’
German tourists Johanna Wolf and Marie Lisson enjoy a breakfast while legally freedom camping.