Wanaka Sun       

Vigilance required for ‘sneaky stealthy campers’

Posted at 5:26am Thursday 20 Dec, 2018 | By Emma Conyngham newsdesk@thewanakasun.co.nz


A day-time ''service hub'' has been established on Ballantyne Road—providing freedom campers with toilets, rubbish disposal, dump stations and Wi-Fi; and a free overnight camp site has also been set up by the red bridge in Luggate. But that is not enough for some campers who still insist on hiding out in forests and thinking they can avoid detection.

Dr Deborah Fraser, a Wanaka resident told the Wanaka Sun, “[The] free hubs, while well-meaning, are far from addressing the growing problem of freedom campers who violate the regulations.”
Fraser said there was a campervan parked very early in the Sticky Forest car park, off Platinum Ridge. All the blinds were down and it had been backed up strategically into the shrubbery so it could not be seen from Forest Heights Road.
“I suspect the occupants are doing what they can to elude detection and still park within Wanaka township, with a convenient forest for their freedom ablutions. I'm sure the many cyclists and walkers who frequent Sticky Forest will not enjoy that tourist donation,” she said.

Local councillor Quentin Smith said, “the hubs are intended to provide opportunity and intercept many freedom campers and by all accounts and data are being very effective. We have been surprised by the numbers using them. This is a long way from a sustainable model but provides data for the next steps and reduces impacts on locals.”

QLDC has employed 12 Responsible Camping Ambassadors for the busy summer months.  The ambassadors are roaming the district acting as the friendly face of camping in the Queenstown-Lakes District. There are six based in the Wakatipu area and six in the Upper Clutha. Their focus is to educate campers, monitor the hubs and trouble spots and assist the enforcement officers as required.

But are the wardens like putting a plaster on an amputated leg? The scale of freedom campers' fecal deposits and rubbish dumping across the region can't be monitored by 12 people and leaves locals feeling powerless to address the situation when they feel tourists are not respecting our environment.

Smith said the best recourse for locals is to dob freedom campers in.

“Council do monitor and enforce the primary spots but need vigilant locals to assist in reporting these sneaky stealthy campers.”

“I'm concerned that council may not respond fast enough,” Fraser said. “These campers have an efficient social media network and it's no surprise Sticky Forest car park has become a magnet for overnight freedom campers as they are clearly getting away with it. Council needs to follow up reports promptly and clamp vehicles such as this one. Too often such campers have skipped the country without paying fines so there needs to be a strong disincentive to park up overnight in town. Clamping tends to send a clear message. If they are hiding from view, as this one was, it's clear they know they are violating regulations.”

Fraser believes the Freedom Camping Act should be repealed and in the meantime, that council could do more than they are doing if they suspect harm is being done to the environment. They can actually ban freedom campers outright from the QLDC area.

“I suggest they would have huge support from residents if they did. Providing free hubs and education is all very well but it's not addressing the issue, it's just encouraging a ‘take and don't pay' attitude. For an area where tourism is so important to the economy it does seem at odds that the council is giving away the product for free.

To report any illegal camping or poor behavior to the council immediately, phone 03 441 0499 or 03 443 0024. However, keep in mind that fully certified self-contained campers are allowed to camp on the side of the road outside of the signposted 'no camping zones'.


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