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Closed borders and a strict bylaw have drastically reduced the number of freedom campers in the Queenstown Lakes district.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council is reporting few issues with freedom campers so far, issuing only 37 infringement notices since October 1 last year.
Council regulatory manager Anthony Hall said the campers had been well-behaved overall.
‘‘However, the low numbers of freedom campers certainly assist the low number of issues.’’
Enforcement officers were doing early-morning patrols in the Wakatipu and Wanaka-Upper Clutha areas, but working fewer hours than in previous summers.
It is a far cry from the 2018-19 summer when freedom camper numbers peaked;
more than 1300 fines were issued and 34 camping vehicles were clamped then.
That was despite the council rolling out its ‘‘responsible camping’’ strategy that season, with measures including daytime service hubs, council-managed campsites and ambassadors to educate freedom campers.
The strategy was a response to a public outcry about a surge in visitors the previous summer that caused overcrowding of camping spots and complaints of people bathing and washing dishes and clothes in lakes and rivers.
It was followed by a stricter bylaw in 2019 that banned freedom camping in town centres, residential areas and along key stretches of road. The bylaw was updated last month with even tighter restrictions.
Council parks service delivery manager Clare Tomkins said no ambassadors were employed this season, and like last summer, no council-managed campsites or service hubs were operating.
There was no central government funding available to help local authorities deal with freedom camping issues this season.