Freedom camping ban zones to be expanded

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THE freedom camping ban saved local taxpayers more than $35,000 last year and zones are now to be expanded.
 
A bylaw – which restricts where tourists can sleep in their vans – was introduced in August last year.

Queenstown Lakes District Council yesterday approved a draft version of the bylaw for the coming year.

QLDC’s community services general manager Paul Wilson told councillors the scheme has been a success.

Wilson says: “I’d just like to remind the councillors that prior to having the by law we were undertaking enforcement activity.

“It was limited to Wanaka and Queenstown town centre, largely, and that was costing us just over $60,000 per annum.

“Based on current recovery rates and effort that our total cost will be this year will be $25,000.

“What we’re seeing is a substantial change in behaviour and we’re putting a lot more into enforcement.”

Freedom campers are issued with $200 fines. Only 19 per cent of the 888 fines issued have been paid. To date, 165 have been paid, 208 waived, 498 outstanding and 17 are proceeding to court.

Areas in near Queenstown where the freedom camping ban will be expanded to cover including Moke Lake Road, to address issues at Sunshine Bay. The zone east of Joe O’Connell Drive will be extended to Glenda Drive to cover the Frankton Flats and Remarkables park Zone.

The council has provided 45 staff with the power to issue the fines but a number of these are inactive.

“Obviously no-one enjoys paying a fine, but we try to do it in a way that’s no too heavy handed.

“We’re not waking people up. We just remind them about why the rules are there.”

Wilson says there are also many cases where enforcement officers could take a lenient approach, such as when campers arrive in the early hours of the morning and have made a genuine mistake.

A hearings panel of councillors was established to hear submissions on the draft 2012 bylaw. The bylaw localises the national Freedom Camping Act 2011.