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.

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