QLDC recently surveyed residents on their views re: freedom campers in the central Otago region. The results show the majority are against freedom campers living for free and increasingly fouling the environment. Despite this, recent government funding has enabled the establishment of two free hubs (one campsite and one service hub) for freedom campers in the Wanaka-Luggate area as reported in the Wanaka Sun. Government funding means that we as tax-payers are paying for freedom-campers to shower, toilet, use wireless and dump their waste at the service hub.
We cannot afford to be seen as a country where unscrupulous users can take without conscience. Despite what a few have claimed, there is zero research evidence to show freedom campers continue to add any value economically, socially or environmentally to this country. The NZ hosting of the Rugby World Cup (when the Act was established) was years ago and there is no reason to continue with the Act. If people can afford to travel here, hire or buy vehicles, and pay for fuel, they can pay the pittance that camping grounds charge. Apparently the camping grounds in this area are only at 20 percent occupancy on average as freedom campers take advantage of free facilities, or toilet, wash and pollute wherever they wish (the latest human excrement and toilet paper I found was in Kelly’s recreation reserve in Wanaka where many children and adults play). We all pay for our housing, water and sanitation. So should campers. It seems evident these campers are a drain on our economy and worse than this, a threat to our environment. We are at serious risk of ruining paradise by allowing free-loaders carte blanche.
The Freedom Camping Act is overdue for repeal and any services provided for campers should be user-pays.
QLDC General Manager Community Services Thunes Cloete responds:
Thanks for taking the time to write in and share your views.
To build on the points you make about community feedback, we have also had a strong message that more needs to be done to protect our environment and our residents’ ability to enjoy it.
The initiatives in place for this summer are trials and will help us to gather data and insights to guide our strategy in the future. Another important part of the puzzle for the future management of camping is our recently adopted Responsible Camping Strategy, you can check it out on the Council website – there’s a link on the home page.
Importantly, the Council has not set up hubs to compete with local camping grounds and holiday parks.
The funding received from the government’s Tourism Facilities Development Fund is to help communities deal with the issue of freedom camping. A large portion of this funding is being used for education, including six full-time camping ambassadors roaming around Wanaka to encourage responsible behaviour and guide campers where to go – this includes promotion of the local camping grounds, holiday parks and activities across the region.
The two overnight hubs (in Kingston and Wanaka) have been provided in areas that Freedom Camping was already taking place. We are simply providing facilities and education to manage the impacts that activity was having on the area. And if the vehicles are not self-contained, they are being directed to the camping grounds and holiday parks.
We welcome feedback on the trials taking place over summer and will certainly take yours on board. If you’d like to provide further feedback, don’t hesitate to email it through to firstname.lastname@example.org and use the subject line Camping Feedback.