8 Mar 2018

Govt considering freedom camping shake up

3:46 pm on 8 March 2018

It's not just a "free lunch" for tourists as politicians get responsible around camping.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has called a meeting with mayors from districts across the North and South Islands to discuss solutions to issues around freedom camping.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis met with mayors from around the country this morning in Wellington to discuss freedom camping and has announced a working party on the issue.

It will look at existing tourism infrastructure, the laws governing freedom camping and weigh up whether to introduce user pays at the facilities they use.

Mr Davis said New Zealand may need country-wide policies to govern freedom camping.

"We want to find consistency and make sure that visitors, when they do arrive, they know what is expected in New Zealand, they understand what is appropriate and inappropriate.

"And make sure that they have a great experience while our communities don't bear the brunt of them," Mr Davis said.

Central and local government want people to stop using the term, he said.

"Another thing they wanted too is for us to stop using the term freedom camping and stop making out like it's just a free lunch - we want to start referring to responsible camping."

Tasman District mayor Richard Kempthorne said freedom campers also brought considerable benefits.

"They are going to cafes, they're sometimes going out to dinner, they're in the supermarkets so there is a definite input into our economy."

Government figures show about 80,000 international visitors do some freedom camping while in New Zealand each year, about 2 percent of the total number of international tourists.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates these tourists spend about $380 million a year.

Dave Cull,  Mayor of Dunedin

Dave Cull Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

But the president of Local Government New Zealand, Dave Cull, said freedom campers were a problem for a vast number of cities throughout New Zealand.

"I think it is clear that the areas like Queenstown Lakes, McKenzie, Rotorua - places where there's obviously a lot of tourists - the sheer volume of so-called freedom camping is just putting a strain on the environment and on the financial resources of ratepayers."

"We clearly want visitors to our country but we've got to manage the volume, there's only a finite capacity both in terms of space and in terms of infrastructure," Mr Cull said.

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