Queenstown blitz on foul campers

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Queenstown council’s crack­down on freedom camping has failed to deter freeloaders – with twice as many fined this year. 

Thousands of revellers flooded into the resort over Christmas and New Year, with many groups sleeping in cars and slinging rubbish on to the streets. 

Campers staying near the Lower Shotover Bridge carpark last week left everything from beer bottles to inflatable boats – and even a home-made toilet. 

A Queenstown resident, who doesn’t want to be named, says: “It was utterly revolting to come across. 

“I honestly looked at the two cheap inflatable boats they’d left behind and considered the world would be a better place if they’d tried to cross the Shotover River in them.” 

A total of 609 freedom camping infringement notices were issued between December 22 and January 11, netting the council more than $120,000. 

The vast majority of those stung with the $200 tickets were in privately-owned cars and vans, rather than rental vehicles. 

Lakes Environmental regulatory boss Lee Webster says the squalid mess illustrates the need for the council bylaw. 

A beefed-up 2012 version of the bylaw, which localises the 2011 Freedom Camping Act, was recently approved. 

“That’s been the community’s concern – people who don’t clean up after themselves,” Webster says. 

“Enforcement was exactly the same as last year, same number of [officers], same amount of time, but we issued 609 notices compared to 284. 

“It’s more freedom campers basically and more in private cars.” 

Visitors in self-contained vehicles – which have toilet and wastewater tanks – are able to stay in non-restricted zones outside town centres. 

Webster says 92 per cent of fines issued were to people in non-self-contained vehicles – many either New Zealanders or tourists who have bought their own transport. 

About six per cent of fines have been paid. Fines must be paid within 56 days. 

The Motor Caravan Association filed papers with the High Court last week challenging Westland’s Freedom Camping bylaw, which bans self-contained vehicles from within 1km of 18 West Coast towns. 

But MCA boss Bruce Lochore says the organisation has no plans as yet to challenge the Queenstown  bylaw.