The car park at the bottom of Mount Iron on the outskirts of Wanaka almost always has at least one overnight freedom camper.
If you’re not prepared to pay to stay the night it’s not a bad place to choose because there are public loos just over the fence.
Not everywhere freedom campers frequent has such convenient conveniences.
If you travel from Wanaka to Cromwell earlyish in the morning it’s not unusual to pass more than a dozen freedom campers parked up along the road beside Lake Dunstan.
That might not be a problem for the bigger campervans which have their own loos. But it is for the smaller vans and station wagons which don’t.
There’s not a public loo for miles so where do these campers go when they need to go?
The answer sadly is almost anywhere which has led to calls to ban campervans and/or restrict freedom camping.
Waitaki Mp Jacqui Dean says education not regulation is the answer:
“We need to be communicating better with visitors to this country, so that they appreciate the precious environment in which they’re travelling and understand the expectations which exist.
“Part of the responsibility lies with rental and tour companies who are often the first point of contact for many of the travellers who visit this country.
“However, local councils also need to step up to the mark, by providing campervan friendly facilities with adequate toilet and rubbish disposal areas, appropriate signage outlining the rules and in some cases council staff visibly enforcing standards,” Mrs Dean said.
“I think this problem can be addressed if everyone works together and ensures that the expectations, which we as New Zealanders have in relation to our environment, are clearly passed on to visitors.”
Some districts do ban freedom campers in certain places for very good reasons but I agree that on the whole education is better than regulation.
One of the reasons for the pee and pooh problem is probably that people from more populated countries aren’t accustomed to so much open space and distance between towns.
But open space isn’t necessarily public property and even if it is it’s not a public convenience.
Travellers need to know that if they can’t go they can’t stay.