New law will target loo-less campervans

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Large swathes of the Wakatipu are to become no-go areas for so-called ‘freedom campers’ in loo-less campervans. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council is expected to approve the “Freedom Camping Control Bylaw 2011” at its meeting tomorrow (Tuesday). 

A large no-go zone will be established throughout greater Queenstown over an area bounded by the Sunshine Bay turnoff on Glenorchy Road, Gorge Rd Industrial Estate, the Events Centre and Peninsula Rd on the Kingston highway. 

Smaller no-go zones will also be sited in Arrowtown, Lake Hayes Estate, Quail Rise, Arthurs Point, Glenorchy, Kingston and Jack’s Point. 

The zones should put paid to campervanners plaguing residents by parking up overnight on suburban streets and using neighbourhood hedges as toilets. 

Self-contained campervans with toilets will also be banned “within town centres and key residential areas” but QLDC community services boss Paul Wilson says enforcement will concentrate mainly on loo-less vans. 

“These users pose the greatest environmental risk,” he says. 

However, freedom campers won’t be pinged for bylaw breaches until the Government passes its overarching Freedom Camping Bill, to be introduced to Parliament late this month. 

Environment Minister Nick Smith wants freedom camping controls in place before the Rugby World Cup. 

Illegal campers will face $200 instant fines and courts can impose penalties up to $10,000 for illegal discharges of campervan sewage. 

QLDC’s bylaw didn’t get a wholehearted public thumbs-up – of 92 submissions, only 39 were in support. 

Wilson says some aspects of the new bylaw were misunderstood – for example, some submitters thought all camping was banned inside “No Freedom Camping Zones”. 

Camping in the zones is permitted on “approved and designated campsites”, he says – and QLDC can “authorise any site as a designated camping area” simply by resolution rather than cumbersome law changes. 

Campervans with loos can stay two nights at those approved sites – not three as originally proposed.

Wilson recommends his council, the Department of Conservation and private players “establish free, low cost or commercial camping opportunities with the ‘No Freedom Camping Zones’”. 

DoC advise they’re improving amenities at their Wilson Bay, Mt Crichton and Moke Lake sites, he adds. 

Ratepayers will foot the bill to control freedom campers, of course – a new “dump station” at Frankton, information kiosks and brochures won’t come cheap. 

The Tourism Industry Association is backing the new clamps on freedom campers. 

“We do not want [freedom camping] to be prohibited,” TIA advocacy boss Geoff Ensor says.

“However, it was always accepted that some degree of enforcement would be required to control unacceptable camping behaviour.”