No trespassing in trial campsite monitoring

Camping vehicles parked on the shore of Lake Dunstan at Lowburn. Photo: ODT files
Camping vehicles parked on the shore of Lake Dunstan at Lowburn. Photo: ODT files
Campers staying illegally at popular Central Otago sites will not be trespassed under a trial monitoring regime this summer, Central Otago District Council councillors have decided.

But it is possible trespass laws could be used later, when a longer-term strategy is developed.

Councillors spent an hour at their monthly meeting on Wednesday discussing a report on the trial regime and acknowledged the complexity of both the trial and any possible future strategy.

They were uncertain about whether campers breaching the rules should be trespassed and council staff advised on the legalities and human rights of trespassing people. Trespass law was complex, and any trespass needed to be prefaced by fair warning and then could take a week to be signed off and actioned through Land and Information New Zealand (Linz) regulations, council chief adviser Dr Saskia Righarts said.

Some councillors thought unless campers were trespassed they would just keep moving from site to site, and also questioned whether enforcement of just Lake Dunstan sites this summer was enough, or if other problem areas, such as Pinders Pond, should be monitored.

The trial, which was announced by Linz in October and is being conducted in tandem with the council, will involve two full-time staff patrolling freedom camping sites, recording licence plate numbers and focusing on the education of campers.

Linz is also considering whether campers at Lake Dunstan freedom camping sites should pay "a small fee" to stay there this summer.

Dr Righarts' report to the council said Linz was considering the charge for the Lowburn, Bendigo, Jacksons and Champagne Gully sites.

It did not mention how much the fee would be, and said practical issues, such as policing and hiring portable eftpos machines, were being "worked through".

However, Linz management had indicated a fee could be introduced this summer, Dr Righarts said.

She recommended a two-stage approach in Central Otago: an immediate summer response to freedom camping and a longer-term strategic approach to responsible camping "that aligns with the national policy that will be developed, and that draws on the outcomes and lessons from the approach taken over summer 2018-19".

She said not trespassing campers would allow time for the council to work with local industry to develop affordable alternative accommodation options for workers; enable time to work with partner agencies such as Linz, the NZ Transport Agency and nearby councils; and encourage travellers to come to Central Otago and support its local economy.

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