'Freedom campers should be shot'

BY JOHN EDENS
Last updated 05:00 16/02/2010

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Messy freedom campers who trundle around the country in sleeper vans without toilets or self-contained utilities should be "shot", the president of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) said yesterday.

More than 200 association members will converge on the goldmining-era township of Lawrence this weekend to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 370-member Clutha Valley branch.

It follows a call by the Otago Conservation Board, at a meeting in Tarras on Friday, to ban campervans and freedom parking in the region.

NZMCA president Dick Waters said tourists in "whiz-bang" backpacker sleeper or rental vans should be banned and the drivers should be shot.

He wanted to make it clear the association was working with the Government on a national motorhome freedom parking policy. The association's members did not want to be "lumped in" with campers travelling in sleeper vans, who often used bushes as toilets and dumped their rubbish in the bush.

Members travelling in certified, self-contained vehicles poured $90 million a year into the tourist economy and supported regional businesses, he said.

NZMCA board member Gordon Murdoch, a mechanic, of Cromwell, said responsible Kiwi campers were not to blame.

"It's about education," he said.

Mr Murdoch, during 20 years of servicing vans, said he could remember only one backpacker who had a trowel in his vehicle for burying waste.

Much of the mess was left by seasonal workers but orchards and vineyards could help by providing parking bays, he said.

Last month tourism operators in the Southern Lakes district called for stricter rules to stop freedom campers destroying scenic sites.

Cairnmuir Camping Ground owner Martine McDowelltold The Times freedom campers around the Bannockburn inlet, mostly seasonal workers, used bushes as toilets, left broken bottles lying around and dumped rubbish.

In Wanaka, the Hawea Community Association called for a stepped-up freedom camping education campaign.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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