Date: 14 May 2013
It has been a busy but successful second year of the Freedom Camping project run by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Southland District Council to educate freedom campers about where New Zealanders expect visitors to camp overnight and how to camp responsibly.
DOC summer compliance ranger educating a visitor about appropriate overnight stay locations
The project was set up in consultation with local communities, to address problematic freedom camping in the Te Anau and Manapouri townships and surrounding districts. Local concern surrounded negative effects of high freedom camper numbers, and the lack of respect some individuals showed for public areas during illegal overnight stays.
DOC ranger Ren Leppens said this year's work built on and included learnings from the 2011/2012 summer. For example, employing two summer rangers, one more than previously, allowed staff to be on duty 7 days a week. Staff were also trained to be warranted officers this year, enabling them to issue infringement notices if required.
The focus was on educating visitors about where and how to camp responsibly, with the rangers approaching those illegally camped and providing information on local campgrounds, how to be a conscientious camper, and generally promoting the Te Anau and Fiordland area. Due to the education approach, only four infringement notices were issued and these were to repeat offenders.
"It is a friendly and social approach, as much about informing or reminding visitors about the local camping options and asking about their holiday, as it is a compliance role. Generally the DOC rangers were well received, hence the low numbers of repeat offenders," said Mr Leppens. "Our staff moved on around 1200 people from their initial overnight site selection, but only four were issued with fines after being caught continuing to illegally camp in the region".
Tallying up the results and the feedback from visitors themselves, general public and locals, the season has been seen as a success. As word spread there was a decrease in numbers of illegal camping and an increase in numbers using local campsites, including DOC campsites. Patrolling has stopped, but will resume next summer.
- Six areas in the Te Anau Basin, Manapouri and surrounds were monitored by DOC rangers over the summer. These were: Te Anau township and control gates; Supply Bay to recycle centre; Chain Bay to Te Anau Downs; the Upukerora to Chain Bay; Manapouri township and The Wilderness Scientific Reserve
- Of these areas, the Te Anau Township was the location from which the highest number of people was moved on, while Manapouri was one of the areas with low numbers of freedom campers addressed.
- The majority of freedom campers moved on had come from Queenstown and were heading towards Milford as their destination.
- A total of 580 groups were asked to move on, and including members of these groups, 1225 individuals were asked to move on.
- Surveys by DOC compliance rangers noted identified that 47.2% of the vehicles moved on were rentals, while 51.0% were privately owned vehicles. The difference being vehicles listed as 'other' or where information was not given/recorded.
- Surveys by DOC compliance rangers noted that 60% of those moved on were aged between 20-29 years, and 20% were aged between 30-39 years.
DOC Visitor Assets Ranger
Te Anau Area Office
Phone: +64 3 249 0200