The first Southlander to be elected to the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association board wants to see Southland towns become more motorhome friendly.
Neville Stirling, of Winton, who said he was looking forward to his new role, wanted to see more areas established around southern towns where motor homes and rental vans were welcome to park.
Despite the negative image that freedom campers had, he said the benefits of having these visitors in Southland far outweighed any concerns people might have.
"There are real financial benefits in establishing motorhome friendly towns in Southland.
"It's not just motorhome members, but tourists that we really want to target. The money that they spend would really help out some of these wee towns."
As an example, he said, association members had spent about $40,000 at 10 motorhome association rallies around Southland last year, and that was just the start.
"When visitors come to town they spend. If we can encourage more people into these Southland towns, it's really going to help them out."
He admitted some freedom campers had given others a bad name, but said the majority of the association's members were very responsible about waste disposal.
The association had already been in discussion with the Southland District Council about establishing motorhome friendly towns and had received a favourable response, with Riverton, Otautau and Winton currently working towards establishing approved areas.
However, Te Anau was proving a sticking point.
"We're hoping to work with the council to find a solution. They've been one of the best council's in New Zealand to deal with on this issue and they're very supportive of what we're trying to do, so we hope we can find a solution."
To become a motorhome friendly town, a designated parking area was required, with the association providing a dump station and signage free of charge, he said.
Stirling, who has been a member of the association for 14 years, said he was looking forward to his new role on the board.
There were at present 700 association members in Southland and 54,000 throughout New Zealand.
- The Southland Times
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