Well, that probably depends on who you ask! The New Zealand Freedom Camping Act that became law in August 2011 is certainly a subject for debate, with many cheering it on, while others feel it will ruin an experience that has become part of the country’s culture.
As with any new law there is bound to be opposition, but looking at the Freedom Camping Act from both sides of the argument, and bearing in mind the impact it is already having, the act is surely good news for all concerned.
What is Freedom Camping?
Freedom Camping is defined as camping within 200 metres of a motor vehicle accessible area or the mean low-water line of the sea or a harbour, other than at a designated camping ground. Within the last ten years in particular this form of camping has been growing in popularity in New Zealand, and according to Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson, the number of freedom campers has doubled over the decade to 150,000.
With the larger number of Freedom Campers come environmental concerns. It could be argued that someone pitching a tent for a night would have little impact on the environment, but if they’re camping where there are no toilet facilities or no sani-dump facilities what are they doing with their waste? This is one of the major concerns that led to the creation of the act.
What is the New Zealand Freedom Camping Act?
The act was passed in August 2011 with the main aim of limiting or restricting freedom camping, and giving authorities the permission to charge fines for campers who are disobeying the rules. The act does not completely ban freedom camping, and contrary to how it seems, local authorities are not allowed to pass bylaws that completely prohibit freedom camping, to the dismay of some local authorities it seems. However, if someone is camping, or appears to be setting up camp in an area where freedom camping is not allowed they can face an on the spot fine of $200. If they are found to be dumping waste the fine could be as much as $10,000.
Caravan and Camping Consumers
Campers who have enjoyed Freedom Camping in the past may be feeling disgruntled by the new law, however, Freedom Camping has not been completely banned, merely restricted. There are still countless places across the country where campers can camp for free and without worry of being fined.
The Tourism Industry
The tourism industry will benefit in certain respects, though could lose out in others. Where Freedom Camping is being very tightly restricted, campers who would have come to these areas in the past may go elsewhere, and while they would have been camping for free they are still putting money into the economy by using shops and services, and visiting attractions. Some regions could suffer if Freedom Campers go elsewhere.
On the other hand, campers who have been encouraged to use the designated camping and caravan parks will bring money back into the economy. Some camping and caravan parks across the country are already seeing an increase in the number of campers staying there, and it seems the number of people polluting the countryside is on the decrease too. This is great news for the camping grounds as they will benefit from increased revenue, and seeing as many campgrounds offer toilet and waste facilities, campers can dispose of their waste in the proper way, thereby reducing their impact on the environment.