Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult says he has been left frustrated by van owners who have thwarted his plans to deal with “unacceptable and undesirable” freedom camping habits.
The mayor has said in a column in a local newspaper last week that with “summer upon us the frustration of freedom camping is about to get worse”.
He said Queenstown Lakes District Council had a well-considered plan to restrict non-self contained vehicles with proper onboard facilities from using public areas.
“However, the inadequate legislation which governs freedom camping has allowed the owners of these vans to install a portable “toilet” and use this to obtain certification as a vehicle with facilities,” said Boult.
“These facilities are completely inadequate and this approach is not working.”
The mayor had asked the Queenstown Lakes District Council executive to investigate further ways to control freedom camping in the region and was also working with the Department of Conservation to come up with solutions.
“I regularly get correspondence from people right across the district frustrated with freedom camping in our public areas. I’ve also witnessed personally, campers using the nearest tree as a toilet and washing their dirty dishes in our lake water,” said Boult.
“I’m determined to do something worthwhile to change these unacceptable and undesirable habits, and protect our sensitive backyard from those unwilling to pay for facilities.”
He was also considering “significant fines” for people caught soiling bush areas along the side of popular trails such as Milford Track.
“Our pristine wilderness is not a giant sewer and this has got to stop,” said Boult.
“I’m open to ideas on what we can do to control this, but I’m starting to think, leveraging significant fines on those caught undertaking such an activity might be the only solution.”