Freedom campers freedom dumpers


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.

You can’t stay if you can’t go – again


The Hawea Community Association was so frustrated by rubbish and human waste left behind by visitors members blocked vehicle access to some areas.

Who can blame them?

As freedom campers increase in numbers so do problems with too few loos.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean met the association and was impressed that they had come up with possible solutions:

Mrs Dean said suggestions from the meeting included more signage, maps of the North and South Islands, showing public toilets, dump stations and the different types of camping areas, a requirement to have porta potties in all camper vans without holding tanks and the progressive development of freedom camping areas with toilets provided.

The larger camper cans and caravans usually have their own loos. But smaller ones don’t and are often hired by people travelling on the cheap who don’t want to pay camping fees.

The provision of more public loos would help so that people have somewhere to go where they’re likely to stay but that comes at a cost.

Companies renting vehicles to tourists have a responsibility to educate them about the long distance between loos and give a very strong message that they can’t stay in places if there’s nowhere to go.

Still No Crisis?


Hawea people are losing patience  with the Government’s refusal to admit there’s a power crisis.

The Government must bite the bullet and tell the nation to make a 10% savings on power or endure public shame if it is not achieved, the Lake Hawea Community Association chairman Errol Carr says.

Lake Hawea residents are on high alert as Contact Energy begins this week to draw down Lake Hawea to the emergency level of 336m for the first time in 20 years.

Mr Carr said the lake level was stable at about 338.1, but a public demonstration was likely if residents’ concerns about low lake levels and environmental damage were not heeded.

“If told, I think the South Island would buckle in and do what they can. The Government is saying there is no crisis, but why are we going to emergency generation?”

Because it’s election year and Labour doesn’t want power cuts.

Lower South Island residents have saved the lowest percentage of electricity, recording 3.2%, according to Transpower statistics.

Upper South Island residents have saved the highest percentage nationally, at 4.1%, and the national average savings is 3.6%.

I don’t know how much power is the difference between 3.2%, 3.6% and 4.1%, nor why the Upper South Island beats the national average. – But it’s easy to explain why savings are lower in the lower south: it’s winter, and the further south you go the colder you get. Here,  around the 45th paraellel, yesterday’s frost still hasn’t thawed from shady places and it’s only .5 degrees outside right now.

Mr Carr said while he did not want older people and those with limited heating sources to suffer, the national average was “pretty mediocre” and there was a lot more that could be done.

He attributed the Government’s reluctance to take leadership to a desire to avoid bad news during an election year.

“We would like to see the Government telling the country there is a problem,” Mr Carr said.

And I’d like to see the Government explaining to the country why there is a problem.

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