The stats are in and the free hubs and overnight campsites provided by Queenstown Lakes District Council have proven to be successful. Rebecca Pitts from QLDC says that 3000 vehicles have used the Ballantyne Road Service Hub and approximately 1500 have used the overnight camping site at Red Bridge (pictured) since they went live.
Rebecca also reports, “Our Responsible Camping Ambassadors have been out and about across the district monitoring and educating campers – they’re reporting that there is less waste at key hotspots, more recycling coming into the service hubs, more campers wanting to upgrade to self-contained vehicles and generally campers have been responsive and grateful for the advice and educational material they’re providing. It’s a step in the right direction and we’re certainly noticing an improvement on last summer.”
For residents by Luggate’s Red Bridge, Tom and Shelley Hilton – whose front gate is almost directly opposite the free overnight site – there have been no problems to report in regards to noise, rubbish or traffic.
“The only concern we have is seeing campers crossing the Red Bridge on foot to swim on the other side of the river,” says Shelley Hilton. “It can get a bit hairy with passing traffic.”
But the issue of toilets and public defecation is by no means over. Jude Battson of the Hawea Community Association says the free services from council have helped, but not solved, the problem.
“When people are camping near the foreshore and have ‘to toilet', they don't have time to drive elsewhere often so will continue to contaminate our environment,” Battson says.
“The Isthmus Peak track portaloo toilet located on the state highway is funded jointly by the Hawea Community Association and Isthmus Peak Station and takes about ten days to get full. A number of the users are passerbys as are the users of the QLDC-funded norski toilet at Craig Burn. Both these toilets go some way, I think, for there to be less defecating near our Lake Hawea foreshore.”
“I met with Wanaka Department of Conservation officials who believe there is a good case for DOC to fund a toilet at the bottom and top of Isthmus Peak track. [Current] funding should last until approximately March,” says Battson.
Like many people involved in the issue of freedom camping and surrounding infrastructure, Battson is in favour of a tourist tax collected at port of entry to help contribute to required facilities. Whilst the hubs are free to tourists, they are not free to council, which uses funding received from the government’s Tourism Facilities Development Fund for the service.
Ultimately it’s local residents who notice the small things and are affected by disrespectful behaviour. If you would like your say on how freedom camping has gone this summer, head to our Facebook page and join the discussion.