Flout the rules and cop a $200 fine

ALANA DIXON
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2012

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More than 1300 infringement notices have been handed out to freedom campers flouting the rules in the south since the Freedom Camping Act came into effect last year.

Queenstown has had the lion's share of infringements.

Queenstown Lakes District Council community services general manager Paul Wilson said the council had issued about 1300 infringement notices, of $200 each, since the act came into effect.

The council heard submissions on its draft bylaw last month and was now deliberating its decision. The bylaw would be adopted in August, Mr Wilson said.

Earlier this year the council voted to extend no freedom camping zones.

Camping in Queenstown and Wanaka town centres and residential areas is also prohibited.

Southland District Council environmental health manager Michael Sarfaiti said the council had not issued any infringement notices to freedom campers flouting its existing bylaw, since the act came into force. However, a ranger who regulated freedom camping in the Te Anau basin on behalf of the council and the Conservation Department, issued 16 infringement notices last season.

Clutha District Council communications coordinator Jamie Shaw said no infringement notices had been issued since the act came into force.

Clutha's proposed bylaw would be unchanged, covering urban areas, the foreshore between Kaka Point and The Nuggets and areas where council "no camping" signs were displayed.

Central Otago District Council parks officer Geoff King also said he was not aware of any notices having been issued in that district since the act was introduced.

Although there had been some discussion around reviewing the bylaw, nothing formal had been put forward, Mr King said.

Gore District Council planning consultant Keith Hovell said it did not have a camping bylaw in place.

"(The council has) had very few issues with freedom camping, and where they have arisen we have talked to the people involved and resolved the situation amicably, so we don't see any need for a bylaw at this stage."

The Invercargill City Council does not have a specific freedom camping bylaw.

However, it does have bylaws prohibiting people from sleeping in vehicles overnight on roads not designated for overnight occupational purpose, and prohibiting freedom camping on council parks and reserves.

FREEDOM CAMPING CRACKDOWN PLAN

Freedom camping may be banned in the Te Anau basin if a fee-paying camping site and a new Southland District Council bylaw are introduced.

The council's camping bylaw, established in 2007, is under review because it ceased to be in effect a year after the introduction of the Freedom Camping Act.

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The act allows freedom camping everywhere except where specifically prohibited or restricted.

Under the proposed bylaw, freedom camping at council reserves would be prohibited except for reserves at Haldane, Thornbury and the Alex McKenzie Arboretum in Otatutau. The area in Te Anau where freedom camping is prohibited will also be increased.

The draft bylaw removes The Key-Mararoa River, on State Highway 94, and the Hillside Manapouri Rd bridge over the Whitestone Stream as designated freedom camping areas, as it is "undesirable" to have designated sites without toilets.

The Conservation Department has indicated Queens Reach could become a fee-paying site, with a limit on numbers and the provision of extra toilets.

If the changes are introduced, the Te Anau basin will have no designated areas for free-of-charge camping, but freedom camping will still be allowed in all other areas by default, unless it has been prohibited.

Council environmental health manager Michael Sarfaiti said the council had not issued any infringement notices to freedom campers flouting its existing bylaw, since the act came into force, but 16 infringement notices for offences on council-controlled land had been issued last season, mostly to overseas tourists, by a ranger regulating freedom camping on behalf of the council and Conservation Department.

There is concern the proposed bylaw could punish the wrong people.

Destination Fiordland chairwoman Carmel McDowall said while the bylaw itself was a good idea and necessary to prevent camping in town and on the lake front, there was potential to be disadvantaging responsible self-contained campers.

It also raised questions about where those flouting the rules would go, she said.

Te Anau's tourism industry relied on all types of tourists and campers and it was important the region recognised this and did what it could to embrace them, she said.

- The Southland Times

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