Jim Boult: Tackling the freedom camping rule flouters

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OPINION: Regular readers of this column will know that I have been critical of the actions of freedom campers in our district.

This is, of course, a generalisation. Freedom campers with purpose-built, self-contained facilities are most welcome, provided they abide by our rules and bylaws.

The group I refer to, and the ones that are a scourge on the district, are the ones who try to flout the rules by having ‘facilities’ on board that clearly aren’t fit for purpose and don’t get used by the occupants.

To that end, council has put forward suggestions for a rewrite of legislation relating to freedom camping. Residents will be interested in the suggestions we have put forward:

On board facilities should be redefined to specify ‘certified self-contained’ vehicles are those fitted with a fixed facility providing suitable privacy and containing a flush loo. Not something portable thrown in the back to get past the rules.

Freedom camping legislation usefully provides for infringements to be issued by councils for breaches of the Freedom Acting Act. However, currently infringement notices are issued to the person hiring a vehicle and they often leave the country without paying. We are strongly of the view the infringement should sit with the vehicle and thus put the onus on the rental company to collect the fine when the vehicle is returned.

We want the ability to limit the locations that freedom campers can use rather than the limited authority we have currently. We believe there should be specified freedom camping areas.

Council is seeking consistency across the country. The Act enables individual councils to interpret the freedom camping laws as they see fit. It would be better for visitors and the country as a whole to have standardised practices throughout the country.

It is the Government’s responsibility to make changes to legislation if it isn’t meeting the outcomes it was designed for. We can only offer our suggestions, albeit from a position of considerable experience, but I am sure we will get a fair hearing.

Freedom camping is an issue of concern to a large number of residents across the district. Personally, as witnessed on my early morning runs around Lake Hayes, the reserve area at the northern end of the lake has become a default camping ground rather than a recreation area.

This camping creep into our recreational areas has come far enough – it’s time to take our spaces back.

Jim Boult is the Queenstown Lakes mayor