Status quo certainly offers freedom, but at what cost?

A freedom camping scene in the Catlins last month. Photo: Heather MacLeod.
A freedom camping scene in the Catlins last month. Photo: Heather MacLeod.
It benefits locals and tourists alike if we keep New Zealand pristine and pleasant to visit, writes Heather Macleod.

I love the concept of freedom camping, and the idea of being a hospitable nation. However, after many months of thought, I now believe we need to severely restrict freedom camping.

Firstly, there are now just too many freedom campers, and secondly, a few spoil it for others.

In the age of user pays, why should local ratepayers be responsible for building tourist facilities, and servicing them, as well as dealing with rubbish, and evening/morning congestion at reserves etc?

Tourists do provide the Government with overseas funds, but in the case of petrol (one of the big spends of tourists), this revenue goes straight offshore again. Petrol tax gains roughly match road wear and tear.

Living in a tourist area, I regularly see freedom campers basically abusing our hospitality.

Why should the local library need a sign in the toilets saying do not wash clothes or dishes here?

Is it desirable or hygienic for tourists to wash plates and food utensils at concrete-block toilets? I have seen this too often.

Stringing washing and clothes lines in public parks and children playgrounds is not appropriate.

McMurdro Park and  playground in Albert Town can have vans with washing hung up between the trees near where local children get the school bus.

I have seen washing lines between trees and the main road in the Roxburgh park and playgrounds.

One morning last month I counted seven station wagons, all with steamed-up, curtained windows on the main Lake Wanaka foreshore — obviously illegal overnighters. Department of Conservation campgrounds provide wonderful locations with basic services — water, rubbish collection, toilets, and a safe place to stay for only $8 a night.

The Albert Town  Tavern used to provide free parking to members of a motor home group and in return gained increased trade. (The new owners may change this).

We need to support  camping grounds and tourist parks. Concentrate the visitors in appropriate areas, rather than have them spread everywhere and take over. Here are some proposed incentives (carrots).

Campervan companies could provide lessees with  Doc camping ground vouchers as part of the package, or maybe sell them at a reduced rate — say five nights for $25.

These companies must be responsible for unpaid fines imposed on their vehicles. Overseas vehicle hire always includes a deposit and/or credit card details, which can be used for unpaid fines and tolls, usually at twice the cost.

If the self-contained toilet facilities are not used,  maybe there should be an extra charge rather than a rebate. If you are not planning to stay in a motor home, why hire it?

As New Zealanders, we are at fault by not setting good guidelines, effectively encouraging visitors to take over our public facilities and areas.

To maintain our hospitality, New Zealanders need to enjoy sharing with, rather than resenting our visitors. It benefits locals and tourists if we keep our lands pristine and pleasant to visit.

Finally, with increasing huge numbers of tourists, our goal should be to encourage more upmarket tourism and fewer budget bludgers.

- Heather Macleod is an Albert Town resident.

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