Liz Proctor joins Marty Black as he moves on sleepy backpackers who’ve parked downtown overnight
“Wakey, wakey, open up please” is the early-morning alarm for many freedom campers around the Wakatipu.
From about 7am harbourmaster Marty Black, employed by Queenstown Lakes District Council to deal with illegal overnight campers, raps on vehicle doors to awaken – and move on – sleepy inhabitants.
Black shifts 20 or 30 cars and campers from freedom camping areas such as Sunshine Bay through to Gorge Road and the outskirts of town each day.
Campers are handed a pamphlet showing where they’re allowed to park up, but are warned “if you get picked up again you may be clamped or fined”.
Black says most obey his friendly “move now please” request within 10 minutes, but he doesn’t always get the desired response.
“I got a guy [at the One Mile roundabout car park] yesterday morning and he absolutely went AWOL,” Black says.
Black always carries a camera and writes down the number plates of all vehicles he approaches as a precaution.
In the past Black, who’s been in the job about seven years, has called the cops on travellers using nature as a toilet.
One of the worst offenders had left a calling card behind their van on Gorge Rd, Black says.
Black: “They had gone to the bloody loo – and just left it in plain view.”
Police make them clean it up or risk arrest, Black says.
While some of the campers have facilities on board, Black says many others don’t.
“The problem is we get one and then suddenly, we get a whole surge of them.”
Black claims “there’s a heck of a lot of young English guys and girls” flouting the rules – and with the Rugby World Cup looming later this year, the problem’s only going to get worse.
“It’s not just a Queenstown problem – it’s a problem across the whole country.
“Unless you’re self-contained, you’ve got to go to a camping ground or somewhere that has facilities,” he warns.