Wānaka Sun       

Fewer freedom camping infringements this summer

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 01 Apr, 2021 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

A reduction in freedom camping infringements over the past summer is positive news, according to Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLD) responsible camping project manager Craig Gallagher.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the number of freedom campers in our district we have seen a corresponding reduction in the number of infringements issued this year. We have issued a total of 255 infringements between 1 November 2020 and 29 March 2021.For the same period last year we issued 1864 infringements.

“There have still been a relatively constant number of campers in our district, and it has been pleasing to see them camping, in general, in the right places and with certified, self-contained vehicles or in DOC or private campsites.” Gallagher said.

“But while it has been pleasing to see campers are staying in the right places we have anecdotally received reports from the ambassadors of a small number of campers lighting fires and littering. It is important we continue to educate campers in our region of the importance of camping responsibly.”

Eight “ambassadors” monitored freedom camping in the Queenstown Lakes over the past summer - the “friendly faces” of the district according to Gallagher.

The ambassadors educated visitors about the district's strict freedom camping bylaw.

Fewer ambassadors were needed this summer because the council was not operating daytime service hubs for freedom campers, as it did the past two summers, Gallagher said.

“The MBIE funding for responsible camping has allowed us to continue to monitor a wide area across our district, and ambassadors have continued to deliver educational messages and reinforce the Tiaki Promise.

“They have promoted “stay local, buy local” and helped steer campers, including non-self-contained vans, to serviced campgrounds and serviced Department of Conservation (DOC) sites,” he said.

To date, visitor numbers have not been equivalent to those in previous seasons. The absence of international tourists was especially noticeable, Gallagher said.

“Despite an anticipated increase in domestic travellers to Queenstown Lakes, the number of freedom campers was well down on recent summers.

However, there had been a "huge spike" in numbers over the Christmas and New Year period, especially for the few days around the Rhythm & Alps music festival near Cardrona on December 29, which attracted a sell-out crowd of 10,000,” he

said.

The council received $509,000 from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for freedom camping initiatives in the 2020-21 camping season. Part of the funding was used to employ the ambassadors.

The ambassadors had two electric vehicles to visit more remote parts of the district.

"They've been doing tens of thousands of kilometres out to Glenorchy, Kinloch, Kingston and Makarora on a more frequent basis than we have before," Gallagher said.

In a media statement last October, council community services general manager Thunes Cloete said the ambassador's role was to educate visitors on how to camp in a responsible and sustainable way, direct them to local commercial campgrounds and identify trouble spots so that enforcement officers could follow up.

Under the district's bylaw, freedom camping was banned in town centres, residential areas and along key stretches of road.

Outside those areas, visitors in certified self-contained vehicles could park for up to two nights at any particular spot on Department of Conservation, district council or NZ Transport Agency land, provided they were a safe distance from a road.

Illegal camping attracted a $200 fine.

Read edition 1020 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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