Camping enforcer on way

The Clutha  and  Southland district councils and the Department of Conservation have teamed up to tackle errant freedom campers in the Catlins this summer.

The Clutha District Council  yesterday backed a joint approach proposal between the three entities to each pledge about $15,000 for a shared enforcement operator in the Catlins.

The Catlins is spread between  the CDC and Southland District Council (SDC).

Freedom camping — or "irresponsible camping" as Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan describes it — is not allowed in any Clutha urban area  or in areas where it was signposted as restricted.

It was allowed only in self-contained units on public land controlled by the council.

CDC planning and regulatory manager David Campbell said only about 10% of visitors to the district were staying in areas which were not camping grounds or holiday parks.

The new enforcement operator being funded  by the councils and Doc  would enforce the  freedom camping bylaws. The operator would  direct non-self-contained campers to approved camping areas or places with more appropriate utilities.

Volunteer enforcement officers will also be active in the Clutha District — they can tell freedom campers to "move on". However, finding all freedom campers in the Catlins was limited by the  geographic spread of the campers.

Doc had also indicated it will make more of its sites available for freedom camping, particularly in the Southland part of the Catlins.

Cr Hilary McNab told yesterday’s CDC meeting the council was being proactive by supporting the joint agreement.

"I think we’re a little bit behind the eight ball when it comes to tourism."

She said the issue was only going to get worse and the council needed to act.

"We don’t want to stop them coming. We just want to point them in the right direction."

Cr Bruce Graham supported the joint venture as "the end will justify the means".

The position funded by CDC, SDC and Doc would operate from December until the end of the active tourist season about March next year.

The CDC also agreed to supply a vehicle for the operator  in the Catlins in addition to the $15,000 it committed.

Maintenance and upkeep of the vehicle will be met by joint funding and it will remain in the ownership of CDC at the end of the period.

The enforcement operator will be employed by Doc.


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