Freedom campers law change on the cards Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis tells mayors

The problem of freedom campers is being assigned to a working group, to get under way as soon as next month.

And a law change isn’t being ruled out.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis met mayors from around the country today, to hear horror stories including tourists using bushes and rivers to toilet and shower, and overrunning parks so that locals can’t use them anymore.

He said the problems wouldn’t be a quick fix.


“There’s issues around the Freedom Camping Act itself, whether it needs to be looked at and whether it’s still fit for purpose.

“Infrastructure is an issue. Consistency around messaging and signage.”

Davis said the possibility of law changes meant relief was probably 18 months away.

But the working group would also be asked to find other, quicker solutions.

“I’m not going to pretend that I know what all the solutions are. We’re very keen to work together, both local and central government,” he said.

“The issue is broader than just more toilets.”

Local Government NZ president Dave Cull said the issue had reached crisis point in some parts of the country.

“It’s clear that areas like Queenstown Lakes, Mackenzie, Rotorua, places where there are already a lot of tourists, the sheer volume of freedom campers is putting a lot of strain on the environment, and on the financial resources of ratepayers.

“We clearly want visitors to our country, but we’ve got to manage the volume.

“There’s only a finite capacity in terms of space and in terms of infrastructure.”

Cull said there needed to be a national approach that gave consistency for tourists, but still allowed control for local councils to decide where camping was and wasn’t allowed.

Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne said their region often had 3000 campers a night in summer.

“The initial focus has to be providing some basic places with basic facilities where freedom campers who don’t want to pay in a campground can stay.

“That’s more important than actually getting it paid for,” he said.

“Generally, freedom campers are not going to pay for camping. So they want somewhere else to go, and they will go somewhere else.

“What’s happened historically is they go down the river or somewhere, and there’s toileting in the bushes and rubbish left behind.

“So having a place with basic facilities is really helpful.”