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.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.