New laws and policy to better manage freedom camping were announced today by Environment Minister and Acting Conservation Minister Nick Smith at the Motor Caravan Association's Annual General Meeting in Kaiteriteri, Nelson.
"Freedom camping is an important part of our tourism industry and great Kiwi lifestyle but we cannot tolerate irresponsible campers spoiling our most iconic areas with human waste and litter," Dr Smith said.
"The number of freedom campers has doubled over the past decade to 110,000 international visitors and more than 40,000 New Zealanders. The existing system where each of our 67 districts has its own bylaws is not working for the responsible freedom camper wanting to do the right thing or for councils wanting to protect their local environment."
A new Freedom Camping Bill will be introduced to Parliament this month that will enable councils to determine where camping is allowed, where it is restricted to campervans with self-containment, and where it is prohibited. The Department of Conservation will be able to make similar rules on the reserves it manages. There will be nationally consistent signage and practical enforcement provisions. A website will be provided outlining where people can and cannot camp nationally.
"We need some national consistency because most freedom campers are unaware of what district they are in one day to the next, but we also want to protect the rights of local communities to decide where freedom camping is to be allowed. We also want to encourage self-contained campervans by having restricted areas that don't have toilets, as the most serious problems arise from freedom camping without sanitary facilities," Dr Smith said.
The new law will provide for a $200 instant fine for illegal camping that may be imposed on the camper or the vehicle. New regulations will require campervan hire companies to record and disclose details so fines can be enforced. Fines up to $10,000 may be imposed by courts on a successful prosecution for illegally discharging a campervan's sewage.
"We will be working hard with councils to ensure these new freedom camping measures are in place for the 85,000 visitors expected for Rugby World Cup 2011, so as to protect the environment and our clean, green tourism brand," Dr Smith said.