Queenstown clamps down on freedom campers

Lake Hayes, Queenstown. Image: André Richard Chalmers

Queenstown is clamping down on badly behaved freedom campers by doubling patrols and restricting access to the popular Lake Hayes.

Queenstown Lakes District Council said it was preparing for an influx of freedom campers with warm weather expected to bring record visitors to the region over summer.

However, its patrols would target people behaving poorly at the region’s popular camping sites.

“We want fewer people who are disrespecting our landscapes, leaving waste and rubbish, and doing their very best to avoid paying a cent while they are here,” said Queenstown mayor Jim Boult. “Frankly, we don’t want them.”

Freedom camping patrols would be ramped up in Queenstown and Wanaka and a mix of education and enforcement would be used to ensure people followed the rules.

Lake Hayes, a popular camping spot for visitors, would have new parking restrictions in place for the summer.

A new gate and fencing had been installed with signposts indicating where self-contained campers could stay overnight. This would stop campers spreading out across the reserve and allow better access for local lakes users, said the council.

The gate would open at 5.30am each day and would be locked at 10.00pm. Any vehicles left parked in the restricted area after the gate was shut would be issued a fine under the current rules for this reserve.

“We do want visitors who appreciate and respect our area, who are here to support local businesses and spread the word when they get back home,” said Boult.

“Such guests account for the overwhelming majority of visitors to our region and we welcome with open arms.”

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