Freedom camping warning signs first

The Queenstown Lakes District Council may look at introducing signage similar to this  to send a...
The Queenstown Lakes District Council may look at introducing signage similar to this to send a clear message to freedom campers this summer. Photo: ODT
Almost 60% of freedom camping fines issued in the Queenstown Lakes District in the past financial year have been paid.

Queenstown Lakes District Council regulatory manager Lee Webster told the Otago Daily Times a total of 3701 infringement notices had been issued in the 2016-17 financial year across the district.

At $200 per infringement notice, that equates to $740,200 in fines issued.

To date, $442,417, or 59.77%, had been recovered.‘‘Some will be going through the courts and there’s a whole process that goes through, so that can go up ...  as well, Mr Webster said.

The number of fines was indicative of increased enforcement across the district and, as the summer season approached, that would be stepped up even more.

"Generally speaking we’ve been doing, in Queenstown, four hours of enforcement in the early hours.

"As we build up into the season we’ll be building that up to five and six hours of enforcement and if we need to go higher than that, then we’ll go higher than that, as well, to make sure that we’re getting to all the relevant parts of our district."

In Wanaka enforcement had generally been for an hour a day because "we just haven’t found the same level of issues over there".

"But we are stepping that up to two hours [a day] and, again, if we need to ...  we’ll do more than that as well."

Increased enforcement would probably start to build from next month, Mr Webster said.

The council’s Freedom Camping Control Bylaw, which was introduced in 2012,  includes areas where freedom campers are prohibited from parking overnight.

Despite signage being in place, Mr Webster said people continued to flout the law. Subsequently, the council was looking at whether more, or different signage might be required.

One option was to introduce signs similar to those used in June along State Highway 6 between the BP roundabout and Queenstown Airport advising motorists of a new parking ban.

"I’m just going to be thinking about how else we can reach out to make sure that people are aware ...  that you cannot camp in these areas, as well as stepping up enforcement," Mr Webster said.

Last month, Prime Minister Bill English announced National would take a tougher stance on freedom campers if re-elected and introduce a new smartphone app showing freedom campers where they could and could not camp.

Mr Webster said, at this stage, it was a "party pledge".

"Give it a week tomorrow and we’ll go from there."

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