Bylaw may be in force soon

A freedom camping bylaw could be ratified by the Queenstown Lakes District Council before Christmas.

A council hearing panel on Thursday considered submissions on the proposed bylaw and the council will now consider points raised, consult lawyers and hope to have the bylaw finalised for the final 2012 council meeting on December 18 when it could be adopted.

After hearing submissions, councillors Cath Gilmour, Russell Mawhinney and Jude Battson, and the council's regulatory and corporate manager Lee Webster deliberated in private.

Mr Webster said the bylaw needed to make the full council agenda "in order to have it in place for the summer".

Thursday's hearing was held in the Queenstown council chambers and submitters from Wanaka were also able to be heard via video link.

Some submitters raised concerns about rubbish and human effluent being left behind at freedom camping sites and other submitters argued this was not from genuine freedom campers.

Cr Gilmour said whether freedom camping was totally prohibited in some popular places or just restricted, there would be a cost to ratepayers either way.

"Anything is going to have to be enforced and therefore anything will have a cost," Cr Gilmour said.

While it was argued freedom camping could be controlled by having small designated areas, the point was raised that such campers did not want to camp in such close proximity.

QLDC had a freedom camping bylaw but was required to make a new one after the Government introduced the Freedom Camping Act 2011.

A round of submissions was heard in May and the council put the amended freedom camping bylaw out for consultation in October. It attracted 21 submissions.

After concerns the freedom camping bylaw was hard to enforce, Mr Webster said 1500 infringements had been handed out over a seven-month period after a two-month "education period" last year.

He said 600 had paid the infringement fine and another 600 were "going through the process", meaning they still had time to pay.

When a fine was given to an overseas visitor, Mr Webster said the council did its best to get the payment.