DOC puts freedom campers on notice

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 12:18 05/12/2012

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The Department of Conservation has warned it will fine freedom campers if they don't follow the rules this summer.

DOC says it is also letting people know where they can freedom camp on conservation land.

Nelson-Marlborough conservator Neil Clifton, who has been managing the changes for DOC's freedom camping options, said while DOC was encouraging people to enjoy their camping the department had to be prepared for transgressions.

Non compliance could earn campers a $200 infringement fee, Mr Clifton said.

Under the Freedom Camping Act, camping is banned in areas clearly identified with signs.

It was really good to have clarity around the freedom camping issue, Mr Clifton said.

''While opportunities abound for freedom camping on public conservation land there are also some restrictions that ensure that everyone gets to enjoy special places in a pristine condition rather than spoiled and soiled from misuse,'' he said.

Gazette notices identifying the places where camping was prohibited and where it was restricted to self contained vehicles were now on the DOC website and copies of notices were available for viewing at all Conservancy and area offices, and DOC Visitor Centres, Mr Clifton said.

The department's list of freedom camping options follows on from the Southland District Council adopting its camping control bylaw in September and Queenstown Lakes District council's move to overhaul its freedom camping bylaw by the end of the year.

Both district councils have been forced to address issues surrounding freedom camping and its increasing popularity.

DOC closed Te Anau's Queens Reach to camping for the coming summer season after public and stakeholder consultation and a pilot project on managing freedom camping, organised by the Southland District Council and DOC last summer.

In August, DOC Te Anau area manager Reg Kemper said the trial removed most of the camping from car parks and streets around Te Anau, however, this led to Queens Reach conservation area becoming a default-free camping area with rubbish and human waste a concern.

Rangers will patrol Queens Reach as part of the camping compliance for the wider area.

The Queenstown Lakes District 2011 bylaw prohibited freedom camping on Queenstown Lakes District Council-controlled land in many built up and scenic "hot-spot" areas to combat freedom campers occupying public space, and often leaving behind rubbish.

A list of public conservation areas where freedom camping is prohibited or restricted to self contained vehicles is available on the DOC website.

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