Freedom Camping

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Continuing to make headlines have been the activities of small groups of younger tourists increasingly described as Freedom Campers. 

Last week the chair of the New Zealand Tourism Council Working Group said problems with freedom camping had "exploded" this summer with issues in the Waitaki, Mackenzie, Christchurch, Tasman, Ruapehu, Coromandel and Queenstown districts.

Figures in support of his statement were provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates that about 60,000 foreign tourists each year were camping for free outside of official campgrounds.

MBIE also however, added the rider only 12,000 visitors were believed to be using freedom camping  as their main form of accommodation.  

Freedom camping continues to grow thanks in the main to modern messaging, photograph transmission and electronic mapping systems.  People are now more likely to be confronted by tourists camped in inadequately equipped vans, older used vehicles and pup tents in a variety of places from popular scenic areas, city sections through to some unlikely out-of-the-way spots.

We must also remember those campers have their supporters whose main point is to ask how many of us slept out under stars or bush canopies in the back of vans or in pup tents as we grew up? Well there was a slight difference in the personal hygiene habits and rubbish disposal techniques we employed.  

I recall parents, teachers and youth leaders telling us how vital an ex-service trench or folding shovel would be as well as making us adhere to the old camping maxim of Rubbish In - Rubbish Out.   Alas, some tourists are not as well advised, but changes are afoot.  

This Government is listening and is looking to address the problem.  Now is an appropriate time with this season's holidays all but finished.  

Among the assistance that could perhaps be provided to some councils could include some financial help to provide amenities  or even to police vulnerable and public sensitive  areas.  

Government will help in some ways but councils need to step up to the plate as well. There are a number of ways they can assist such as coming up with a unified set of rules and regulations,  appropriately displayed signage and localised information at their local tourism centres. Queenstown appears to be bringing the problem under control.

I iterate, we now have some six to eight months ahead to get the matter settled. As Parliamentary Private Secretary for Tourism I intend to do my bit!