Freedom camping bans come into effect

New signs at the entrance to the northern end of Lake Hayes advise  freedom campers they are no...
New signs at the entrance to the northern end of Lake Hayes advise freedom campers they are no longer welcome there. Photo: Tracey Roxburgh
The freedom camping crackdown has begun.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council began installing signage at Lake Hayes and the Shotover Delta on Thursday ahead of bans for overnight campers from the two hot-spot and problem areas in the Wakatipu, which came into effect last night.

Anyone found in breach of the new regulations, which prohibit any vehicles from parking at the two reserves between 10pm and 5am, will be fined $200, risk being clamped "and may have their belongings seized", a statement from the council said.

Council finance and regulatory manager Lee Webster could not be reached yesterday to provide further comment on the latter.

In Wanaka, people camping overnight on the lakefront also risk having their vehicles clamped.

Those who are clamped must pay $200 to have it removed, as well as the $200 infringement fee.

Gates have been installed at the entrances to Lake Hayes and the Shotover Delta, which will be locked at night, with signage erected to explain the changes.

During daytime the gates will be open  so people can  take their vehicles to both reserves during the day, while walking access will be available at all times.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said work was under way to review the council’s Freedom Camping Bylaw and reserve management plans and develop a wider camping strategy for the district.

The council was consulting  government agencies, including the Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand, the NZ Transport Agency and  Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to look at "funding and support" for providing more roadside toilets throughout the district, and support other aspects of the council’s reviews, he said.

"This is an issue that is bigger than our district and we’re happy to sit around the table with local councils, central government and industry to work on solutions that crack down on the irresponsible minority of freedom campers, while supporting those who play by the rules and respect our landscapes and special places."

Increasing freedom camping numbers in the district this summer and the behaviour of the "minority" risked degrading the unique experiences on offer in the area.

The surge in numbers had resulted in overcrowding, risks to public health because of human waste and  potential  damage to the environment caused by people bathing and washing dishes and clothes in the lakes and rivers.

The council had also sought community suggestions on possible solutions and had received a "huge" amount of feedback."

These areas are special to both residents and visitors alike and have simply been abused by a small minority of freedom campers, and there has been a loud and understandable public outcry.

"Families should be able to visit our reserves without worrying about seeing human waste or people literally airing their dirty laundry.

"It’s a shame that we’ve had to take these measures as it will no doubt have an impact on responsible freedom campers staying in fit-for-purpose certified self-contained campervans.

"At the end of the day there is a legitimate concern around public health, we have heard the community’s concerns, we have listened, and we have acted."

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