Lack of action angers locals

This unofficial no freedom camping sign was put up near the entrance to the Dublin Bay reserve...
This unofficial no freedom camping sign was put up near the entrance to the Dublin Bay reserve after a fire burnt native shrub in the area last week. Photo:Tim Miller.
Frustrated Dublin Bay residents say there is a lack of action against freedom campers in the reserve where a fire broke out last week.

Since the fire, a spray-painted home-made sign saying freedom camping is not allowed has been erected near the entrance to the Dublin Bay reserve.

The cause of the fire, which is thought to have started on the lakefront and spread into the surrounding kanuka bush, is still being investigated by the Otago Rural Fire Authority.

Dublin Bay Residents’ Group spokeswoman Joy Paterson said the sign showed the anger residents felt about the inability of the Queenstown Lakes District Council to enforce the freedom camping bylaw in the area.

"Just this morning I saw two freedom camping vans drive out of the reserve and it was pretty clear they had been there overnight."

Mrs Paterson said some residents had taken to walking around the reserve at night to move on anyone they suspected of illegally camping overnight.

Camping is allowed but is restricted to fully self-contained vehicles only.

Most of the reserve is owned by the Department of Conservation but there is a narrow strip of land owned by the council.

Mrs Paterson said she understood both Doc and the council had very large areas to cover but more needed to be done, even if it involved asking residents to help out.

"I don’t see any reason why a group of residents couldn’t be given the authority to go along and fine these people and move them along."

QLDC regulatory manager Lee Webster said the council had received two complaints in the past week about freedom campers in the Dublin Bay area.

Council staff would patrol the area to establish whether freedom campers were on council land or Doc reserve land.

If campers were found to be on conservation land, the council would talk to Doc about what approach it was taking.

No infringement notices had been issued by the council for freedom camping in the area, which was likely to be because most of the reserve land was governed by Doc.

Doc senior ranger Annette Grieves said the department had a very large area to patrol and focused on particular areas such as Mt Aspiring Rd, but did investigate individual complaints from the public.

"If people are concerned about freedom campers in a particular area, they can get in touch with us and it will be looked into."

Ms Grieves was unable to say whether Doc had received complaints about freedom campers in the Dublin Bay area since the fire.

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