Camping clampdown

Popular spot: Lake Hayes

Freedom clamping is about to be introduced at Lake Hayes.

Almost a year ago Queenstown’s council began applying clamps to vehicles found to be freedom camping illegally.

The first and so far only clamp was applied on December 23, about 72 hours after the initiative was launched.

Offenders had to pay $200 to have the clamp removed as well as a $200 fine.

The council’s regulatory boss Lee Webster says daily patrols in Queenstown and Wanaka monitor the “usual hotspots” and keep an eye on other problematic areas.

One of those was the northern end of Lake Hayes, where freedom clamping would be introduced before Christmas.

“You can camp down there, provided it’s in a certified, self-contained vehicle and …  we’re finding people are not.

“They’re occasionally in a tent, but also in non-certified, self-contained vehicles — back of the car, that type of thing.

“At the moment we’re getting tens of vehicles down there [a night]. A number of them are quite legitimate …  it’s those ones that are not.

“It’s quite a high-profile area for us from a district point of view, so, that’s the next point of our focus of attention.”

Webster says over the last few months the council has worked closely with the Department of Conservation to solve issues with freedom campers at Gibbston.

In March, a resident told the Otago Daily Times the car park next to Rum Curries camping area at the end of Rafters Rd was like a “Syrian refugee camp”, with about 200 people a night crammed in, campers defecating outside and leaving rubbish in their wake.

Webster says the area accessible to vehicles has since been sectioned off and following that there have been no further complaints from residents.

However, daily patrols could be extended to Gibbston, if necessary.

While the issue of freedom camping is “challenging”, it also needs to be kept in context, he says.

“If we look at the number of freedom campers that come to our district …  It’s that minority that cause the challenge for us, basically.

“The majority of camper vans that come to our district are …  either going to camping grounds or they’re certified self-contained and they’re camping in the areas that they’re supposed to be camping.

“But we still have to deal with this, the 10 per cent, which is where this problem’s coming from.”

Webster says the council is also continuing to work with the Department of Internal Affairs highlighting challenges in the legislation for local authorities.

One example is the lack of provision for the council or DoC to enforce on behalf of other landowners, for example, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) or Land Information New Zealand (Linz).

“If  we enforce … and they just go on to NZTA and Linz land, there’s nothing that we can do and so the community thinks we’re doing nothing.”

Otago Daily Times