Proposed new freedom camping laws are an opportunity to ease community concerns and create a stronger approach to managing camping around the country, according to Tourism Industry Aotearoa.
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has today announced that he will introduce new legislation next year that will restrict the places where non-self-contained vehicles can be used to freedom camp. A new regulatory system will be introduced to certify vehicles as self-contained and fines will be increased.
TIA generally supports the proposed new measures, TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts said. Roberts is a member of the Responsible Camping Working Group, which has worked with Government to address public concerns since 2018.
“The ‘right vehicle, right place’ approach that the Minister has adopted has the potential to correct many of the issues New Zealanders are concerned about,” said Roberts.
“Visitors who camp in a vehicle are a relatively small but important sector of New Zealand’s tourism industry. The bad behaviour of a small minority has tended to overshadow the fact that the vast majority of campers do the right thing and make a valuable contribution. Having clearer rules and guidelines will help.
“International campers travel widely through the country and tend to stay a long time, saving on accommodation costs but spending money on a wide range of goods and activities. We also know that many New Zealanders enjoy the privilege of freedom camping and these proposals acknowledge that.”
Holiday Parks New Zealand Chief Executive Fergus Brown says the proposed rule changes make sense and will benefit the holiday park sector.
“The ‘right vehicle, right place’ approach is sensible. Holiday parks provide a range of options for all camping styles and budgets, and we are pleased that the Minister has noted the important role our businesses play,” said Brown.
TIA notes that the Government is providing $10m to assist local councils with camping education and to prepare camping bylaws. The need for councils to pass their own bylaws is potentially problematic and could result in different approaches across the country, creating confusion for travellers.
TIA will continue to advocate for a consistent approach around the country as the legislation is introduced and new bylaws are developed over the next two years.
TIA convenes the New Zealand Responsible Camping Forum, which brings together about 60 representatives from the public and private sectors, including rental vehicle operators, tourism associations, camping app developers, local councils and government agencies. The Forum has agreed on some key approaches for managing camping issues, which include a mix of good information, appropriate infrastructure and enforcement measures.
TIA administers the responsible camping website www.camping.org.nz which provides comprehensive information on camping in New Zealand.
Mr Roberts is also a member of the Responsible Camping Working Group established by the previous Minister of Tourism in 2018. The work of the group has led to a series of measures including education, enforcement and new infrastructure, supported by improved council bylaws.
To read TIA’s full submission, go to https://www.tia.org.nz/advocacy/submissions/general-submissions/