Camper conundrum

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Freedom camping . . . North Canterbury mayors are looking for national guidance to help find solutions to the negative impacts of freedome camping. PHOTO: PAM JONES

By DAVID HILL

North Canterbury mayors are looking for national guidance to help find solutions to the negative impacts of freedom camping.

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray and Hurunui’s Winton Dalley are among 22 mayors invited to meet new Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis to discuss freedom camping ahead of next month’s rural and provincial sector meeting in Wellington.

While Mr Gray wants a national policy on freedom camping, Mr Dalley says national guidelines would be preferred because of the difficulty in creating a policy that fits with every district.

“It would be nice to have a national policy, because people don’t see boundaries, like between Hurunui and Kaikoura,” Mr Gray says.

He says the council can only enforce bylaws on council-owned land, making enforcement difficult when there are issues on public land, such as that owned by the New Zealand Transport Agency, Department of Conservation and KiwiRail, as well as private land.

Mr Gray says he does not want to deter freedom campers, who spend money in the local economy and often stay longer than other tourists, but he wants to encourage “responsible camping” to protect the environment.

“Many of our locals today first came to Kaikoura as freedom campers to go surfing, but it’s a larger number of people coming in now so we need a policy which protects our environment.”

Mr Dalley is keen to focus on solutions. “We accept that freedom campers are part of the scene now, so we need to talk about the solutions to the negative effects that are associated with freedom camping.”

He says it is not just about freedom campers, but “irresponsible behaviour”.

Providing the infrastructure to support freedom camping, such as toilets and parking, place a huge burden on councils with a small ratepayer base, Mr Dalley says.

“We pride ourselves on the huge investments we have made in providing facilities across the district to alleviate the negative effects of freedom camping, but it does cost our ratepayers a huge amount of money, with not much revenue.”