1493694570628 - Tourists not prepared to pay aren’t welcome in NZ, says councillor

Tourists not prepared to pay aren’t welcome in NZ, says councillor

If tourists can’t afford $30 or $40 to stay at a holiday park, “then we don’t want them in the country”, a Marlborough councillor says.

Michael Fitzpatrick wants to “take the free out of freedom” when it comes to camping, only months after Marlborough implemented a new bylaw. 

“We need to figure out ways we can accommodate the [campers] and also suck money out of them at the same time,” Fitzpatrick said. 

He claimed nobody he had spoken to in the community was pro-freedom camping.

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Freedom camping was proving to be the albatross around the Marlborough District Council’s neck, with the council trying to find a bylaw to suit everyone since 2011.

The region had designated spots for self-contained and non self-contained campers, including the controversial site at Koromiko, between Blenheim and Picton, which was often overcrowded. 

Under the Freedom Camping Act 2011, councils had to make their own bylaws controlling the issue. 

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Marlborough’s bylaw was passed in 2012, but summer trials had been carried out in the years since.

An updated bylaw was finally formalised at the end of last year. 

However, freedom camping subcommittee member Cynthia Brooks said the bylaw was simply “a holding pattern” until more direction was provided nationwide. 

“We are certainly waiting for Central Government. There’s something going on there.” 

The Department of Internal Affairs was carrying out investigations to determine if amendments to the act were required this summer. 

Freedom camping was completely banned in Christchurch and North Otago, including Queenstown.

Fitzpatrick said Marlborough could learn from other districts. 

Staying at a backpackers hostel in Queenstown, he saw young travellers paying for their accommodation. 

“[The hostel] was full of what I would describe as freedom campers and they had to shell out $50 a night to stay there,” he said. 

The council needed to invest in more toilet and shower facilities, and then charge campers to stay at their sites. 

Fitzpatrick said there were already low-cost places to camp in Marlborough, such as the Department of Conservation campground at Whites Bay, as well as holiday parks.

He was impressed by the KiwiCamp initiative at Riverlands Roadhouse Blenheim Truckstop, which could accommodate up to 30 vehicles.

The campsite was accessed by swiping the KiwiCamp mobile app at a boom gate, which automatically shut off when the site reached capacity. 

Access to hot showers and washing machines incurred a small fee, but parking at the site was free. 

KiwiCamp creator and truckstop manager Chris Wagner said the arrangement was working out well, with no problems with campers. 

Wagner said he thought a similar arrangement for public freedom camping spots was “exactly what the council should do”.