Fury at freedom camping explosion in Wakatipu

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Freedom camping in the resort has spiralled out of control since the council canned its patrollers, furious Queenstowners claim. 

Harbourmaster Marty Black moved on 20 to 30 illegal campers a day for seven years as a part-time enforcement cop for Southern Monitoring Services. 

His role was scrapped by Queenstown Lakes District Council last month to save the $45,466 it costs to fund the scheme annually in the Wakatipu. 

The move has already backfired, according to local lawyer Phil Wilson. 

He claims the issue has quickly reached “epidemic levels” and he’s complained to QLDC about it. 

Wilson used to push on freedom campers himself in the mornings when he was a Queenstown councillor in the 1990s. 

“If a councillor was to try that today, they’d never get to work,” he fumes. 

Wilson says he’s spotted people in sleeping bags on Sunshine Bay Reserve and in tents on Queens-town Recreation Ground. 

“And the One Mile carpark – you may as call it the One Mile camping ground because it’s just chocka.” 

Fellow Queenstowner Julian Ford is also seething about freedom campers bunking down at One Mile. 

“Some have been there for two or three days and have all their bloody washing out,” he says. 

“Lakes Environmental did a big push a couple of months ago and now they’ve just let it go. It’s just frustrating.” 

Another long-time local Russ Tilsley claims he no longer takes his two-year-old daughter to the park near the One Mile “eyesore”. 

“The place stinks because there’s been so much grease and stuff washed out of vans,” Tilsley says. “There’re queues for the toilets and they use them to wash in – it’s just disgusting. 

“It’s really got out of hand and it’s been in the last month, six weeks really.” 

However, QLDC community services boss Paul Wilson says the “relatively ineffective” patrols didn’t stop freedom campers in the past. 

“I have actually gone back to look at the records in 2009 and there were up to 24 vans camping every night at the One Mile when we did have patrols. 

“There was no consequence of having the harbourmaster and deputy harbourmaster knock on your window at 7.30 in the morning – it was an inconvenience.” 

A $40 fine could be issued to rogue campers under the QLDC Traffic and Parking Bylaw 2006, but signage required to enforce it under transport regulations wasn’t practical, Wilson says. 

A new freedom camping bylaw allowing instant fines of up to $20,000 – the actual cost of penalties would be between $150 and $250, Wilson predicts – is expected to come into effect on May 31 this year, along with associated enforcement patrols.