Fined Queenstown ‘freedom camper’: It was a safety nap

SHARE

A Roxburgh man vows to fight a $200 Queenstown freedom camping fine, saying he was having a “driver reviver” nap. 

Retiree Ben Jeffery plans to take his case to Queenstown District Court after getting stung by Lakes Environmental for allegedly freedom camping in a prohibited area. 

Jeffery and his wife claim they spent about five hours “resting” in their Ford Focus station wagon at the Fernhill roundabout car­ park in the early hours of the morning on January 1. 

They’d planned to travel to Clyde for New Year’s celebrations but decided to carry on to Queenstown instead. 

However, they arrived too late for the downtown fireworks display at midnight, so chose to take a “driverreviver” by sleeping at the carpark for about five hours. 

“We noticed there was a sign up at the carpark that said ‘no freedom camping’ but we didn’t consider our resting to be freedom camping, so we parked there,” Jeffery says. 

The couple were back on the road driving home at 5.45am, Jeffery claims. 

No enforcement officer approached them to physically issue a fine – the first they knew about it was when they received a $200 infringement notice in the mail. 

“I couldn’t believe it. People are encouraged to rest from driving when they’re tired,” he says. 

“I think freedom camping is disgusting and should be enforced, because people abuse it and leave behind a huge mess. But it’s wrong to fine people for stopping to rest for a few hours.” 

Jeffery is taking his battle to court after Lakes Environmental refused to accept his explanation. 

“It’s just the principle. I don’t think it’s on,” he adds. 

“I wouldn’t pay $200 for a carpark for five hours so I told them I’d be prepared to make a donation of $20.” 

Lakes Environmental regulatory and corporate manager Lee Webster says Jeffery’s case doesn’t meet the criteria for a driver-fatigue rest period. 

According to New Zealand Transport Agency rules, resting for fatigue doesn’t need to be any longer than 40 minutes and under the Freedom Camping Act, camping is defined as “staying inside a vehicle”. 

“From that definition he would be considered as freedom camping in that area,” Webster says. 

“The individual’s been sleeping there for five hours, which is considered as camping, basically. 

“We do give waivers where people can prove they were napping for less than 40 minutes.”