Government funds to counter issues thrown up by New Zealand’s rampant free camping industry have been welcomed by the holiday park sector, which says a national solution is overdue.
Tourism minister Kelvin Davies last week announced $8.5 million in government funding for improvements recommended by an industry working group set up earlier this year to investigate solutions to issues created by free campers.
The minister said short-term solutions would be put in place by this summer, with longer term regulatory changes the subject of a cross-government plan of action.
The group assessed the place of camping in New Zealand, and provided recommendations including nationally consistent camping zones, legislative reviews with supporting regulatory actions, and short-term actions such as marketing campaigns and funding for local councils.
The funding will be allocated to infrastructure, education and enforcement projects, a marketing and education campaign, and a data and technology-driven pilot.
“It’s great that tourism minister Kelvin Davis has decided to put resources into finding both short and long term-solutions for this problem. We are looking forward to being part of the process,” said Holiday Parks New Zealand (HPNZ) president David Aflallo.
“The holiday park sector has always supported free camping in the right place and in the right vehicles. But we need measures to ensure free camping sites aren’t established in areas where they directly compete with local holiday parks.
“HPNZ is delighted that the working group’s report recognises the important contribution that commercial camping and holiday accommodation providers make to the camping network, and that this will be taken into account in any changes to free camping.”
The organisation says strong leadership from government will be needed to develop key long-term solutions, included recommendations for review of the Freedom Camping Act and the Camping-Grounds Regulations 1985.
“We need a national solution that ensures that visitors know where they can and can’t free camp,” said Aflallo.
“Important considerations will be the impact on the environment; the health and safety of free campers, other visitors and residents; and the quality of the visitor experience for both the free campers and other visitors.”
Following the funding announcement, Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) has relaunched its website freedomcamping.org, a ‘one-stop shop’ for travellers to New Zealand explaining what is classed as freedom camping, where travellers can camp, and rules, regulations and good practice around rubbish, waste and water usage.
Visitors to the site can search by region for campsites, and are encouraged to download the Campermate and Camping NZ apps to ensure they are prepared on the road.
TIA CEO Chris Roberts has also welcomed the funding and the recommendations of the working group.
“Campers are an important sector of New Zealand’s tourism industry,” he said.
“They travel widely through the country, tend to stay a long time and spend money on a wide range of goods and activities.
“The funding allocated as a result of this report will complement the information resources TIA and the wider industry have created to protect and retain New Zealanders’ rights to access and use our public spaces.”