Popular camping sites in Mackenzie District 'spoilt' by freedom campers, mayor says

An aerial shot of The Pines reserve on the Lake Pukaki foreshore showing campers at the site.
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An aerial shot of The Pines reserve on the Lake Pukaki foreshore showing campers at the site.

Popular camping sites in the Mackenzie District are becoming spoilt and "grossly overloaded" with freedom campers, the district's mayor says. 

His comments follow concerns raised by members of the public and elected officials about mess left by campers at The Pines reserve, on the Lake Pukaki foreshore. 

But Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith said the reserve was just one of many sites crowded by campers, which was putting pressure on camping facilities. 

Freedom campers pictured at the Hamilton Dr freedom camping zone last year.
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Freedom campers pictured at the Hamilton Dr freedom camping zone last year.

And tackling the issue has presented a "legislative issue" as district councillors and government agencies try to work out a way to enforce rules to address those concerns. 

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Land administered by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), was not bound by the Freedom Camping Act or other bylaws. 

Mackenzie District Mayor Graham Smith.
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Mackenzie District Mayor Graham Smith.

LINZ, which manages The Pines, confirmed it only had the power to trespass people on its sites.

However, Local Government Minister Anne Tolley confirmed the "environment" in which the act was developed had changed, and the Government was now looking at how it could assist councils and the issue of consistency across different types of land ownership.

Smith said addressing the problem at the foreshore required a uniform approach, but it was not the only spot identified as a problem area. 

There were a number of spots, owned by LINZ and the Department of Conservation, that were "grossly overloaded" with both freedom and self-contained campers. 

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"It's actually spoiling ... some of these spots."

The Pines reserve and Lake McGregor outlet were two of the most "congested" sites, Smith said. 

Some rest sites administered by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) were also becoming congested with campervans and vehicles, with some leaving their mess behind. 

"Obviously we have a situation where we need somewhere they can go," he said. 

"A lot of the campers are very good and we love seeing them in our district, but it's spoilt by some."

Council chief executive Wayne Barnett said he was aware of discussions to address concerns at The Pines reserve, and the pressures and impact on other sites and facilities. 

The act allowed the council to enforce rules and hand out infringement notices on its own land, but not LINZ or NZTA land, he said. 

"We can work together [with other agencies] ... but there is still the legislative issue that we need to get around."

Barnett said he was comfortable that any freedom camping issues was under control on council land. 

But coupled with increasing numbers of visitors to the area, this had pushed the issue into other spots which were not owned by the council.

Barnett confirmed the council had applied for government funding to pay for an upgrade of toilets at the Lake Pukaki lookout, and new facilities at a site at Burkes Pass. 

"Those one's would be the main areas that we think are feeling quite a bit of pressure."

LINZ crown property acting-group manager Raymond Morgan said LINZ had not received any complaints about The Pines this season, but it had some maintenance issues with graffiti and damage to a toilet door.

"The council, and any other agency, currently has no power to issue infringement notices or fine people on LINZ land.

"However, we will be considering whether there are other options to deal with enforcement."

Morgan was unable to outline future management options for the site because there were a number of agencies it had to consult before it was clear on what options might be available. 

Tolley said work was underway to look at the management of freedom camping with the regulatory regime, with a focus on assisting councils. 

"This work programme is also looking at the issue of consistency across different types of land ownership, such as LINZ land."

 - Stuff

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