Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean has criticised the government’s decision to set up a working group to deal with freedom camping.
Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis made the announcement in March after a meeting with 32 mayors from across the country, including Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult, but Ms Dean said the government had missed a chance to take urgent action.
“Kelvin Davis squandered an opportunity to make some positive change when he met with mayors from around the country last month. His best option being the establishment of a freedom camping working party which could take a long 18 months to find solutions.“Tourism Industry Aotearoa already spearheads the Responsible Freedom Camping Forum, which was established in 2007. The forum met earlier this year and said that the best approach to sorting out the problems with freedom camping involved information, infrastructure and infringements.”
Ms Dean also drew attention to a new Private Members’ Bill from National’s East Coast MP Anne Tolley, which seeks to prohibit freedom camping more than 200m from public toilet facilities.
“The onus is now on the Government to provide leadership - unfortunately their answer to everything seems to be to set up another working group. This should be a real concern in places like Wanaka, where local people are now likely to face yet another summer of toilet paper and human waste littering their local scenery, while the Government sits on its hands.”
Responding to Ms Dean’s comments, Mr Davis said it was a complex issue that did not call for a one-size-fits-all solution and took aim at the previous National government for failing to act.
“A number of mayors were very critical of the previous Government’s Freedom Camping Act and some questioned whether infringements were the right approach. The mayors called for a working group to properly look at the issues and I agree.
“I expect some solutions to be in place before the coming peak tourist season, but there will be longer term work, for example over next 18 months, such as looking at the Freedom Camping Act. It’s for the working group to develop options and I’m not ruling anything out.
“It’s a bit rich for the Opposition to criticise my Government when they sat on their hands for nine years. We want to get this right,” he said.
Members of the working group have not yet been appointed.
Pictured: Jacqui Dean looking at freedom camping in Wanaka. Photo: Supplie
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