The great Kiwi road trip could be at risk. A bunch of friends hit the road Friday night for a weekend of surfing. In the early hours they reach the beach and sleep in the van so they can get a few hours sleep before hitting the water at sunrise. Under the Government’s anti-Freedom Camping Bill they could be up for an instant $150. (For surfing you can also read fishing, tramping, hunting…)
The Bill is an attempt to deal with the problem of littering and human waste left by the large number of campervans in some of the country’s most scenic spots. It makes it easier for Councils to declare areas off-limits to freedom camping, and gives them an enforcement regime that includes instant fines for both littering, and camping in the wrong areas.
Let’s be clear: there is a problem here. Noone likes to see toilet waste on the roadside in our scenic spots. But according to submitters it is mostly caused by international visitors travelling in campervans without self-contained toilet facilities.
Our objection is that the Bill is a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. It gives DoC and Councils the tools to effectively outlaw freedom camping by declaring large areas out of bounds for freedom campers. Both DoC and Councils can levy instant fines on offenders. Now DoC doesn’t have a record of predatory enforcement regimes for the purposes of income generation, but you can’t say the same thing about some Councils.
It amazes me that other more targeted approaches haven’t been tried first. Why not bring in instant fines for littering and waste dumping (and not freedom camping), have the option of levying those fines on vehicles (as is done with traffic fines) and then make it mandatory for rental companies to recover the fine from the client’s credit card.
Why not phase out campervans that don’t have self-contained toilet facilities? Maybe as a country that encourages higher and higher numbers of tourists we should invest a bit more in visitor infrastructure like toilets, rubbish bins, and waste disposal facilities for campervans?
From an email just in:
Thanks for your common sense stand on freedom camping, I’m a kiwi – currently overseas.As a surfer being able to enjoy New Zealand, crashing where there are waves is worth more to me than any sum of money.This… bill represents a destruction of what I value most about New Zealand, and NZder’s tradition of camping next to lakes, the sea, enjoying what we ALL have as kiwis.
P.S. I should add that we voted for the Bill at first reading, recognising there is a problem and we thought the Bill deserved some select committee scrutiny. Having read and heard the submissions, we now think it is a dog.