Freedom Campers are getting a bad name because of a few bad apples, according to Regional Tourism Organisations.
Recent publicity of Freedom Campers littering and going to soup kitchens is not a reflection on the bulk of Freedom Campers who are respectful of New Zealand and our communities according to Regional Tourism New Zealand.
Executive officer Charlie Ives says Freedom Campers are an important part of the mix of visitors attracted to New Zealand and he warns that some tourists are getting a bad name when they are not necessarily causing the problems.
“There are a wide diversity of people who camp for a variety of reasons including visitors, seasonal workers, and New Zealanders who own their own motor-homes and the vast majority of freedom campers do so responsibly.”
But he says we need to toughen up and impose penalties on those who clearly know the rules and break them anyway.
“They are the ones we don’t want, and we need to target them to change behaviours.”
Mr Ives says a lot of the issues have arisen as a consequence of freedom campers not knowing the rules and, he says there is good reason for that.
“There is confusion in the bylaws across the country that any visitor would be bewildered by.”
“Some regions have no bylaw, while others have a bylaw, sometimes with different rules about where you can park, where you are banned, where you get rid of waste, what the penalties are or even if there are penalties.”
“We should be providing clear direction to freedom campers as to where they can camp and what the rules are. I’m sure most freedom campers would be very grateful if we could get some consistency across the country in the bylaws so they learn what the rules are and can apply them across the country.”
Mr Ives says some councils have reacted to local concerns, and in the case of Queenstown, the mayor heeded a resident petition and banned freedom camping from two popular spots. Others, including Wellington, are toughening up on “non-self-contained” vans illegally parking.
These are things councils need to be talking with their communities about, as ultimately it’s the communities who will decide the level of acceptance around Freedom Camping.
Mr Ives says the fact that the Minister of Tourism is meeting with mayors to discuss Freedom Camping issues is a step in the right direction.
“Local and Central Government needs to take a lead in finding solutions to the growing outcry in some communities over the small minority of careless campers, who ignore rules and don’t respect the environment.”