Freedom camping turns feral

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Freedom campers have been snapped sleeping under trees in Queenstown.

Local holiday park owner Erna Spijkerbosch, who supplied the photos to Mountain Scene, says the council needs to do more to police the issue.

She’s suggesting “feral camping” might be a more suitable name.

It adds to a growing grimy picture in the tourist mecca, coming a week after Queenstown council’s parks boss Clare Tomkins said staffers find human poo almost daily.

Queenstown council’s regulatory boss Lee Webster says rough sleepers aren’t his problem.

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In a statement, he says a freedom camping bylaw is aimed specifically at people in vehicles.

“If people are just sleeping in the open, the bylaw doesn’t apply.”

Spijkerbosch owns Queenstown Holiday Park and Motels Creeksyde.

She also part-owns CCR Limited, the company leasing council-owned campgrounds Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park, Arrowtown Holiday Park and three other holiday parks in Wanaka.

The photos were taken by the Lakeview Holiday Park’s fence by the manager’s wife about two weeks ago.

It seems to be a popular spot – that’s where a man was seen relieving himself just days earlier.

Once the campers were told to move on they walked up Isle Street and got into a van with two other people already inside, Spijkerbosch says.

“The vehicle wasn’t big enough for both the couples to lay down and sleep in, so two of them got out and slept under the bushes.”

The stargazers might have copped a $200 fine if they were caught.

Webster says: “If we can associate a vehicle with them, i.e. they are camping out right beside their vehicle, we can issue a fine.”

But it’s not just the fact that campers are sleeping in ‘no freedom camping’ areas that bugs Spijkerbosch.

“Where are they going to poo? And, where are they going to shower? The answer is they’re going to steal the use of the campground facilities.”

Webster says the council patrols about four to five hours daily looking for freedom campers – which costs about $100,000 a year but the money’s recovered from fines.

Earlier this month, Local Government New Zealand said the country needs to plan for $1.38 billion to pay for basic infrastructure to cope with booming visitor arrivals.

mandy.cooper@scene.co.nz