Bill clamps down on freedom campers

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 16/05/2011
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Proposed fines of up to $10,000 for freedom campers have been welcomed by motor-camping advocates.

Environment Minister Nick Smith unveiled the new freedom camping legislation yesterday and said a bill would be introduced into Parliament this month.

Under the proposed new law, councils will be able to designate areas as camping areas, prohibited places, and sites where camping is restricted to self-contained motorhomes. The Conservation Department will be able to make similar rulings.

Automatic fines of $200 will be given to people camping illegally and court-imposed fines of up to $10,000 will punish those caught dumping sewage.

Companies that hire campervans will be required to take and disclose details so the new fines can be enforced. The $200 fines can be issued to parked vehicles even if no-one is present.

A website will be set up to inform campers, and signs will go up around the country.

Dr Smith said freedom camping was an important part of New Zealand's tourism industry and the Kiwi lifestyle, but numbers of freedom campers had doubled in the past decade and iconic areas were being spoiled with human waste and litter.

The new rules should be in place before the Rugby World Cup later this year. "We need some national consistency because most freedom campers are unaware of what district they are in one day to the next, but we also want to protect the rights of local communities to decide where freedom camping is to be allowed."

The Government also wanted to encourage self-contained campervans by having restricted areas where there were no toilets.

Motor Caravans Association president Bruce Stanger welcomed the new legislation.

"You get the ones running around without the toilets, without the facilities and things, and they're just ruining it for everyone really."

If people wanted to use motorhomes without facilities, they should stay in camping grounds where there were, he said.

Until now, the councils had had little power to ensure only certified self-contained motorhomes were being used outside of camping grounds.

Some of the biggest problems have occurred in popular tourist destinations such as Fiordland, West Coast, Nelson-Marlborough, Coromandel, and the Bay of Islands.

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