Queenstown’s frustrated council says it is hamstrung to deal with freedom campers taking advantage of empty sites.
An unauthorised freedom camp established on a vacant lot on the corner of Frankton Road and Stanley Street was shut down after Christchurch-based owner Eric Zuo fenced the site and erected signs to deter trespassers.
Now, the campers have moved to another empty section on Park St, with up to 30 cars parked each night and with campers sleeping in their vehicles.
Queenstown council’s regulatory boss Lee Webster says the council is aware of the pop-up campsite and has been working with the landowner and property manager.
Webster says part of the problem facing the council is how quickly word spread on social media of “free” campsites.
“Social media, it can react a lot faster than we can, particularly where they find a piece of land that someone has just brazenly gone on and trespassed to, then, ‘there’s a great location here, no-one bothers you’ or ‘no-one can bother you’ … we are almost hamstrung with how we can deal with that, particularly when it’s on private land.
“It’s frustrating, it really is.”
While there are allegations the campers at Park St had been pooing and weeing on the land, Webster says the council needs evidence before it can act.
The council has no power to move freedom campers from private land. Attempts to contact the landowner yesterday were unsuccessful.
The neighbour of the unauthorised site, former Queenstown mayor Warren Cooper, says the campers turned up about five weeks ago and each night about 30 cars parked on the site with the campers sleeping in their vehicles.
Cooper says the campers are “reasonably well organised” and “pretty quiet”.
“But, I’m not sure if it’s what I’d call an added attraction to Queenstown.
“They’re well behaved but, I must say, we’ve tolerated it and we just hope it goes away.”
German Nicolas Drummer (23) stayed his first night at Park St on Tuesday.
He and friend Christian Petersen, who take odd-job contract work in Queenstown, had stayed at the Department of Conservation’s Twelve Mile Delta camping ground for the past four weeks.
“The DoC campground is cheap – it’s just the distance from town,” Drummer says.
As for rubbish problems and a Newshub TV cameraman being jostled on Monday morning, he says: “I think it’s a bunch of idiots.
“We keep our trash and don’t leave it on the private property where we, luckily, are allowed to stay for free.”
He adds: “Everybody has a car here, it’s easy, you don’t have to carry it by hand.”
Drummer says if someone wanted to charge a small amount, like $10, to camp on the site, he would pay it, because of the proximity to the centre of town.
Petersen says: ‘‘But this one’s for free so we take it. Why not? You would take it also.”
-Additional reporting by David Williams
Otago Daily Times