Hire firms might collect fines

Rental van companies may yet be required to collect the unpaid freedom camping fines of their customers on behalf of local authorities.

The companies already have the authority under section 29 of the Freedom Camping Act 2011, but choose not to use it.

However, a single line in the Rules Reduction Taskforce's ''loopy rules'' report has given the Queenstown Lakes District Council hope the companies might be forced by the Government to collect the $200 fines, often left unpaid by tourists leaving New Zealand.

The taskforce, chaired by Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, reported to the Government on Tuesday.

While intent on reducing red tape in some areas, it considered more regulation was needed over freedom camping.

The report said freedom camping regulations were ''without teeth'' and that freedom camping could cause problems for locals and impose costs on local authorities and the Department of Conservation.

It concluded by saying there was an ''opportunity'' to ''enable councils to collect fines for freedom camping infringements''.

Council chief executive Adam Feeley told the Otago Daily Times yesterday he considered that line meant ''an ability to enforce fines via the rental companies, as currently works for speeding fines''.

''We would obviously support any measure which gives the fines more teeth but not of course for the sake of revenue collection but rather because more effective laws result in greater compliance.

''And it is compliance with the freedom camping bylaw that we are seeking for the benefits of locals and visitors alike.''

Ms Dean yesterday agreed rental companies being required to collect fines was a possibility, along with other measures including education, warning notice and the seizure of vehicles.

She plans to be in Queenstown next week to talk to ''stakeholders'', including the council.

Ms Dean said she was working on an ''open minded'' review of ''how the legislation isn't working; what we might do to change legislation or practice''.

In February, the ODT reported 2642 tourists issued with infringement notices in the year to January chose the no payment option, costing the council revenue of $176,000.

In a radio interview yesterday, Mr Feeley updated the figure to around a ''third of a million dollars''.

A major Auckland rental company approached for comment yesterday had not responded by late yesterday afternoon.

-mark.price@odt.co.nz

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