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2/09/2019 12:00 a.m.
The Waitaki District Council has received money from MBIE to continue a programme of education around responsible freedom camping into the 2019-20 season, this year employing Freedom camping ambassadors.
The Freedom Camping Act specifically states that Councils cannot prohibit freedom camping. All we can do is define the areas where restrictions are, through the bylaw. Following nationwide successful projects last year, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment this year offered further funding to help encourage responsible camping around New Zealand. Funding is for education and enforcement projects, and ambassador programmes.
With the message Tiaki ‒ take care of New Zealand – the idea is to educate those planning to freedom camp in the district and promote local accommodation alternatives so that they think twice before breaking the law, and hopefully open their wallets a little more while they are in the district. Tiaki ambassadors will be on hand to remind people of the penalties for breaking the rules and gently encourage them to do the right thing and so reduce the negative environmental impacts of unmanaged freedom camping.
Mayor for Waitaki, Gary Kircher said, “It is excellent news that we have been successful in gaining funding for our ambassador program. When numbers of freedom campers were becoming a problem in several locations around Waitaki, we introduced our Responsible Camping Bylaw. That gave us a stick which has helped to reduce the issue, but this funding now gives us a carrot to manage it even better. Having ambassadors who can help direct campers to where they should be, including to camp grounds and holiday parks if their vehicles are not self-contained, is a much better look for Waitaki, and it is not reliant on ratepayer funding.”
Tiaki means to care for people and place. New Zealanders have a special connection to the land, and want to help visitors travel safely and conscientiously. The Tiaki Promise, a shared kaupapa, has a set of guiding principles for visitors to follow, showing them how to contribute to preserving and protecting our land.
Waitaki District Council Recreation Manager Erik van der Spek said, “We know people will always try to find places to stay for free and legally they can do this at specific sites. Our aim is to mitigate the risk of illegal camping and damage to our beauty spots.”
Council staff are also in the process of designing new signage to be installed at locations around the district to make it clear where you can and cannot stay. The ambassador programme may also allow us to find out more about our campers, such as: what attracted them to the area, do they use registered camps at all, why freedom camp, where do they shop, are they passing through, or are we a destination. All of which will help build a better picture of our visitors and their decision-making.