Freedom dumping okay for Greens

11/06/2011

The Green Party campaigns vigorously against cow pooh pollution but in opposing legislation against freedom dumping  they’re sanctioning human pooh pollution.

The Green Party’s opposition to the Freedom Camping Bill shows it puts people camping where they like ahead of responsibility to our environment, Environment Minister Nick Smith and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson say.

The Bill passed its First Reading in Parliament yesterday with only the Green Party and former Conservation Minister Chris Carter opposing it.

“I am particularly disappointed the Green Party voted against the Bill. They are being hypocritical in demanding stronger action against polluting farmers but turning a blind eye to the increasing problems in our most sensitive areas caused by irresponsible freedom campers.  They cannot pretend to be the defenders of New Zealand’s clean green brand when they put more weight on camping freely than the responsibility to do so without polluting,” Dr Smith said.

“We need to take a consistent and fair approach to all groups whose pollution is damaging New Zealand’s reputation.  The Government has more than doubled the maximum fines to $200,000 for farmers and $300,000 for industry for breaches of water discharge consents. Regional Councils have toughened up enforcement with a significant increase in the number of prosecutions.  Everyone needs to take a step up in better respecting our environment.”

Ms Wilkinson says it’s baffling that the Green Party is happy for some of our most pristine and popular countryside to be treated as a toilet or dumping ground.

“Freedom camping will always remain part of the Kiwi holiday culture but it’s important that we can better prevent the appalling behaviour of the minority so everyone else can enjoy their holiday.

“This Bill is about giving local councils and DOC better tools to protect areas that have been badly impacted by the growth of freedom camping. The backcountry will remain unaffected, as it should be, and no responsible, law-abiding camper is going to be impacted.”

The legislation isn’t aimed at people who get caught short between loos. It’s designed to counter the growing problem of people camping where they will and dumping their rubbish and faeces there.

It is a problem not confined to rural areas. People in Te Anau and Wanaka have reported finding human waste on the grass verges of town streets.

People travelling in vehicles with self-contained loos will still be free to camp almost anywhere. Those without self-contained vehicles will have to stop where there are loos.

I can’t understand why anyone would oppose that, let alone the party that works so hard to counter other forms of pollution.


Freedom camping a bit less free

16/05/2011

Some much needed restraint will be placed on freedom campers will new laws and policy to better manage freedom camping announced by Environment Minister Nick Smith and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson:

“Freedom camping is an important part of our tourism industry and great Kiwi lifestyle but we cannot tolerate irresponsible campers spoiling our most iconic areas with human waste and litter,” Dr Smith said.

“The number of freedom campers has doubled over the past decade to 110,000 international visitors and more than 40,000 New Zealanders. The existing system where each of our 67 districts has its own bylaws is not working for the responsible freedom camper wanting to do the right thing or for councils wanting to protect their local environment.”

A new Freedom Camping Bill will be introduced to Parliament this month that will enable councils to determine where camping is allowed, where it is restricted to campervans with self-containment, and where it is prohibited. The Department of Conservation will be able to make similar rules on the reserves it manages. There will be nationally consistent signage and practical enforcement provisions. A website will be provided outlining where people can and cannot camp nationally.

“We need some national consistency because most freedom campers are unaware of what district they are in one day to the next, but we also want to protect the rights of local communities to decide where freedom camping is to be allowed. We also want to encourage self-contained campervans by having restricted areas that don’t have toilets, as the most serious problems arise from freedom camping without sanitary facilities,” Dr Smith said.

Irresponsible freedom campers are no longer only a problem in remote country areas. Wayside stops on main roads and urban streets are also being used by people without self-contained loos.

The new law will provide for a $200 instant fine for illegal camping that may be imposed on the camper or the vehicle. New regulations will require campervan hire companies to record and disclose details so fines can be enforced. Fines up to $10,000 may be imposed by courts on a successful prosecution for illegally discharging a campervan’s sewage.

Instant fines for relatively minor breaches are far better than charges which lead to court, especially for people from overseas. Being able to impose the fine on a vehicle will put more onus on companies which hire them to educate visitors about where they may and may not camp.

Restrictions will add to costs for visitors but user-pays is better than having the costs of irresponsible freedom campers fall on us and our environment.


Freedom campers freedom dumpers

16/01/2011

What’s one of the last things you do before going to bed and one of the first things you do when you get up?

Where do you do it when you’re travelling in a car or van which doesn’t have an on-board loo and sleeping on a suburban street?

This one was parked about a kilometre from public loos so it’s possible its occupants used them. That can’t be said for the people who set up camp miles from anywhere.

 Hawea people blocked off several wayside stopping places last year and are justifiably angry at the filth they’ve found since they’ve been re-opened.

Freedom campers have been blamed by the Hawea Community Association (HCA) for an “appalling and disgusting” repeat of the sight and smell of excrement, toilet paper, and rubbish at the reserves.

A huge local effort was made to clean up areas at Craigburn, Deep Creek, and by the Lake Hawea lookout in October when boulder blockades stopping access to the site were removed.

HCA president Rachel Brown has called for a culture change in New Zealand tourism in the wake of a sickening return to form by freedom campers.

“It’s the No 1 way of visiting New Zealand – just hire a van and drive around the country and [defecate] anywhere you want,” she said.

As freedom camping  becomes increasingly popular with tourists the problem of freedom dumping will grow.

Councils will soon have the legal right to fine anyone found guilty of what used to be – and maybe still is – on the statute book as casting offensive matter. But first they have to catch them in the act and given the many isolated spots along our lakes, rivers and roads that won’t be easy.


Where do you go when you’ve gotta go and there’s nowhere to go?

06/03/2010

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.


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