Campers' waste issue worsens at Tekapo

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 29/04/2014

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Mackenzie District Mayor Claire Barlow wants public help to deal with the issue of freedom camping and the "untenable mess" at the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Her comments come in response to Lake Tekapo resident George Empson's volunteer cleanup work.

Under the Mackenzie District Council's bylaws, it is illegal to freedom camp by the Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo, but Empson said overnight camping seemed to be common.

"Most of these campervans are very small, and do not seem to have proper toilet facilities," he said. "Rubbish and waste has been a problem for a while, but it appears to be getting worse."

People caught freedom camping near the Church of the Good Shepherd can face fines up to $500.

However, Empson queried whether the rules were being properly enforced.

"It's a big issue for the community. It saddens me to see all the rubbish around the church," he said. "This is a place for worship and prayer and has a history for the high country people."

Empson said his recent cleanup missions had uncovered some disgusting discoveries.

"The other big problem to put it bluntly is human crap," he said.

Barlow agreed this was "untenable" and she would talk to council about possible solutions.

"I am certainly interested in hearing from members of the public who may have innovative ideas for dealing with this issue. We do need to be mindful that there are many responsible freedom campers and that it is a few thoughtless ones who spoil things for everyone else," she said.

"We need to consider the implications. It will come at a cost so it is a conversation we need to have with our communities and they will need to decide how much they are willing to pay to enforce any rules that are made."

She applauded Empson's work, saying he was a "great ambassador".

Mackenzie district community facilities manager Garth Nixon was unaware of the latest complaints about freedom camping. The council had not issued any fines or infringement notices this year.

He said there were about four or five wardens in Tekapo who worked with the council on a volunteer basis.

"It's not something we can police 24/7. If the community want more enforcement, there's a cost involved," Nixon said.

The council also bans freedom camping at Lake Opuha and the Lake Ruataniwha reserve between December 24 and the second Monday in January.

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- The Timaru Herald

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