QLDC investigating further freedom camping sites

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Rural Queenstown residents are up in arms over council plans to put freedom camping sites in their neighbourhood reserves.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) is investigating options to locate sites around the Wakatipu, including at Whitechapel, near Arrowtown, and Morven Ferry.

But neighbours are worried there will be a repeat of issues seen at Lake Hayes a few years ago if they go ahead.

Council community services general manager Thunes Cloete said staff assessed all possible sites in the district, before issuing a survey to get a feel for issues before more formal consultation started.

Survey results released on Monday show just seven of the 820 people who responded said freedom campers had no impact at all.

Most said freedom camping had a ‘‘negative’’ or ‘‘somewhat negative’’ impact on the district and wanted greater restrictions on where people camped.

A total of 77 respondents identified as members of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) and another 45 identified themselves as freedom campers.

NZMCA property and policy manager James Imlach confirmed the association did not respond to the survey, although members did.

The association lodged a judicial review claim against the 2019 bylaw in March, a month after the council started working on the new bylaw.

Mr Imlach said the association was now waiting for the council to respond.

‘‘I did have a look at the survey but we decided not to respond to it because we prefer to talk to the QLDC through the judicial review process.’’

Council communications spokesman Sam White said the judicial review was ongoing.

Meanwhile, the survey showed gravel parks at the Luggate Red Bridge and Gibbston Reserve were the most popular choices for freedom campers.

Whitechapel resident Lisa Guy said it was time campervan hire companies made private arrangements with landowners, rather than relying on communities to provide facilities.

However, she was not critical of the council, which was only following national directives to designate freedom camping sites.

‘‘But my personal opinion is that freedom camping for New Zealanders went by the wayside many generations ago.’’

She and Mike Hanna, of Morven Ferry, thought the council would be better off supporting formal camping ground businesses, or sending freedom campers to Department of Conservation (Doc) sites, so Doc could get more income.

He felt the survey design was flawed and did not give people any real options to identify preferred sites — the Morven Ferry and Whitechapel sites were in the middle of a cycle trail hub, while proposed Glenorchy sites were supposed to be for boat launching and public recreation.

Mr Hanna believed it would lead to more conflict between campers and reserve users such as dog walkers, cyclists and swimmers.

Mr White said council staff were now analysing feedback from the survey and preparing a report for elected members.

If councillors agreed with the report there would be a four-week consultation period on the draft Freedom Camping Bylaw 2021, and a submissions hearing, before the final version of the bylaw was approved.

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