Government steps up, a little, for mitigating a problem it created itself


Tourism is booming, but local councils aren’t all able to cope with the increase in visitor numbers. Their infrastructure is creaking at the seams, especially while the lower end of the tourism market places pressure on limited facilities.

Freedom campers will benefit from this year’s Budget with Prime Minister John Key revealing money will be allocated for infrastructure improvements.

Mr Key told The Nation the growing tourism industry is putting pressure on local councils.

“There’s an infrastructure deficit for the backpacker end, where people are staying out there, [they’re] not necessarily staying in a motel or holiday park and that’s a real issue for local councils,” says Mr Key.

He did not reveal specific details of how much spending would be allocated, or which facilities it would be spent on.

However, Dunedin Mayor, Dave Cull, says freedom camping should not be encouraged but instead limited.

Mr Cull says any extra funding councils receive will still not be enough to cope with growing numbers of tourists.

“No one really foresaw the rising numbers when the rules around freedom camping were brought in at the time of the Rugby World Cup and now there is a real problem with people crapping everywhere,” says Mr Cull.

He says freedom camping should be limited to those who have proper self-contained toilets on board their vehicles.

“I mean, some of them come with these plastic chemical toilets that most of them don’t even use.

Great argument. 1) They must have toilets. 2) Most that have toilets don’t use them. Eh?

“I think we need to look again at our laws around freedom camping and whether we should allow for freedom camping at all.”

Mr Cull worries providing infrastructure for greater numbers of freedom campers will ruin the very spots they are coming to see.

“If we stick a dunny at every place where freedom campers stay what will that do for all the beautiful places we’re trying to sell?”

The past summer saw a large increase in the number of freedom campers across Otago, stretching facilities and the patience of some local residents.

In the end we are having bigger problems than just some littering and human waste. If freedom campers are refusing to use facilities or tidy up after themselves, no amount of bins or ablution blocks will solve that.

It’s essentially the ones who live like animals that create the problem for everyone else. So much so that New Zealanders in their own country are now restricted in freedoms they used to have as a birthright.

I suspect the solution will lie in a three-pronged approach of education, social surveillance and steep fines that are enforced.

Local surveillance could be simply a process where¬†people report problems to a website. It’s amazing what a photo and recording of the licence plate will do. Next place they stop, people look up the licence number and bingo – the pressure is on. Add to that the idea that any fines levied against them while they are in the country mean that they can not fly out until they are paid in full, and the problem should just about clear up by itself.

We’re a soft touch. Some people are filthy animals. Building another toilet won’t solve a thing.


– Newshub


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  • biscuit barrel

    Well both issues, human waste and the driving/accidents are going to get a lot worse, since there are no easy answers.
    But those who want to kill two birds with one stone, would notice that Wicked campers( and some others) are the vans which dont have toilets, how about a national user surcharge, say $20 per day paid at the point of hire to cover their cleanup costs.

  • Mac50

    This seems to be base on the premise people only need facilities where they sleep, and day time travellers are not part of the issue, even though there are a lot more of them. Seems more logical to me to add a toilet than a sign banning camping at a popular spot. Maybe I’m unusual, but I never need a #2 at night.

    • Evan

      It’s not about unusual but we’re dealing here with people who can have their body clocks out by up to 12- 24 hours or so along with the fact they just don’t care anyway!

  • Woody

    Myself and others I know were heavily involved in the process of trying to get the Freedom Camping Act passed in a more workable format but as always, those at the coalface were pretty much ignored and we have ended up with the result nationwide that we told the government we would end up with. A classic “Told you so”.

    We have also been involved with trying to get councils too deal with the issues before they became issues but once again, councils ignore workable solutions and resort to heavy handed actions which benefit no one. There are councils doing a great job in this area but others who are not interested.

    There are plenty of examples both here and overseas of how freedom camping can be managed to everyone’s benefit but a lot of blinkered public officials are only interested in their own views, not finding workable solutions.

    • Raibert

      Totally agree Woody, and the money Government will give to councils to provide facilities will be just sucked up by the council jobs worths.
      Last year spent several weeks in a self contained camper in Queensland, lots of small communities had sites you could just park up overnight. If not self contained had toilets available ( no showers ) but always potable water. Lots of places the local pub let you park next door with some providing power free if you bought a meal. These communities have worked out that by being welcoming brings in business for local merchants, even if it’s just a coffee, tank of fuel or a meal. Saw no signs of the type of abuse noted in this article, and the Aussies would be quick to point it out.
      I think we risk becoming like the unwelcoming French of the past to tourists. We need to get our heads out of the sand and decide to provide the facilities tourists want as much as which tourists we want here, and what is acceptable behaviour.
      Oh, and another issue is costs, camping in NZ is significantly more expensive than Aus. So we don’t encourage tourists and those who come we expect to pay dearly, attitude adjustment required all round.

      • biscuit barrel

        Thanks for that. Good to hear some great ideas

  • Max Rennie

    The problem of human waste would be severely decreased with the construction of appropriately sized toilet blocks. These should be in designated areas with ample parking. If this is done right then all camping in non designated areas can be banned (except for approved self contained campers) with fines issued to the vehicle owner and enforced at the airports. These toilet blocks are not to have showers. We don’t want to make it too easy for the bludgers. They don’t need to be in primo spots – they should be back from the beach or down the road a bit.
    I have been freedom camping in NZ for 25 years or so. I use a portable loo and every few days I book in to a motor camp for a good clean up. I have my favourite spots and always clean up the site as soon as I get there – I don’t want to spend my few days in paradise staring at other people’s garbage.
    If done right, with proper facilities and strong enforcement, it’s a win-win for everybody.

    • rantykiwi

      If this is done right then all camping in non designated areas can be banned (except for approved self contained campers)”

      This already doesn’t work and no amount of legislation is going to stop the filthy slobs from behaving as they currently do. Campers from all the major rental companies are self contained and certified as such. It doesn’t stop the scumbags hiring them from treating them as if they weren’t.

    • Steve kay

      I’m in Queenstown. We have toilets, lots of them. They deposit waste where they sleep, in lay bys and empty sections, how many toilet blocks should we erect in your view?

  • rantykiwi

    Maybe we need to look at the issue from the other end – Why are so many people deciding to freedom camp?

    I think the answer to that is pretty simple – campground owners have got greedy and priced themselves out of the market. When it’s no more expensive to book into a backpackers or a cheap motel then to book a campsite then people in campers are going to decide “I’m already paying for the camper, I’m not paying through the nose a second time for my accomodation, I’ll just park up wherever I can without paying.” Maybe it’s time to address what campgrounds are charging.

    • biscuit barrel

      Campgrounds are fairly rare now, and not in the spots where they want to stop, ie lakeside

  • Orca

    There’s always the Singapore solution, after all everyone always says how clean and green it is. First offenders get a court appearance, a hefty fine and get to wear a fluoro “shaming vest” while they clean up litter in public places. For a second offence, it’s another day in court, double the fine and double the hours of rubbish duty. It doubles each time again for subsequent offences.

    Actually, they have lightened up on what it used to be. It used to be 4th time mandatory 3 months in Changi prison on a dirt floored cell. Now they save that for really bad crimes, like kissing in public and jaywalking, or being gay.

  • Tom

    I suppose locals dont eved go to the toilet when they go camping or travelling! LOL must be a Kiwi thing !

    • Raibert

      A Kiwi thing is a general lack of public toilets. Am 5th generation kiwi who has travelled extensively and find it curious that we don’t provide adequate public facilities. If we want to encourage tourists we really need to get our act together.
      Walked the Tongariro crossing a little while ago, stunning walk, however toilets an hour from start and end on a walk which takes most people about 6 to 7 hours. What do they expect? And on a busy day queue for toilets up to 20 minutes.

  • Second time around

    Why not add toilets to the facilities we expect in
    rest areas, the same as they do now in France, formerly home of the open
    air pissoir. The last thing we want is tired drivers on the roads driving
    mindlessly to find a place safe from overzealous council inspectors.

  • T Mardell

    I really am amazed that in this situation, an opportunity is being missed. We have tourists coming to NZ with a particular budget – they rent a car, have no problem sleeping in cramped quarters, but need to eat, need petrol, want to do the fun activities such as bungee jumping etc. (I’m reminded of my own OE in Europe in the 70’s)

    Then provide roadside facilities (I as a resident often bemoan the lack) and make it seemly. Remember not everyone has a 5 start budget, or 3 star even. But they have a budget, and lets make it work for them too, and make the best of it.