STU SAYS

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE -

Like many of you, I’ve just been camp­ing.

What is truly spe­cial about camp­ing in New Zealand is our camp­grounds and the fact that we have so many of them in such mag­i­cal spots.

But like any other busi­ness they have to be vi­able to sur­vive and if the num­ber of campers dwin­dle then the camp­grounds start to be­come sim­ply valu­able real es­tate.

So now we have free­dom campers. A gen­er­a­tion of trav­ellers taught to ex­pect that ac­com­mo­da­tion is an un­nec­es­sary ex­pense and for the price of a cramped sleep and the du­bi­ous am­bi­ence of a pub­lic carpark they can see the coun­try on a two-minute noodle bud­get.

Free­dom camp­ing is fine in the wilder­ness. It’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate any­where else.

I free­dom camped once. No tired van, just me and my sleep­ing bag on a beach in Ja­pan. I didn’t brush my teeth, charge my phone, toi­let al fresco or cook noo­dles and com­man­deer carparks but I still feel bad be­cause it felt dis­re­spect­ful. Like wear­ing muddy boots in­side.

I don’t know if to­day’s free­dom campers carry any guilt around in their over­stuffed vans but it wouldn’t seem so and nor should they when they’re be­ing so gen­er­ously pro­vided for.

I was no shin­ing light in eco­nom­ics class but I did pick up that if some­body ex­pects a ser­vice for free then some­one else has to pay. If we start los­ing camp­grounds be­cause they aren’t be­ing used the price is too high

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