Campground owner slams $2.2m plan to tackle freedom camping

Long Lunch 09/10/2018
Photo: File.

A campground operator has expressed concern over the $2.2m plan to tackle freedom camping issues on the West Coast.

Logan Skinner’s budget-friendly park in Franz Josef could soon face stiff competition, with the local council planning to develop a freedom camping site just down the road.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has given $2.2 million to three councils on the West Coast to encourage “responsible freedom campers” with new toilets and rubbish facilities. The councils will use the money to develop freedom camping sites or wardens to police freedom camping hotspots.

Buller District Council will use the bulk of its funds to develop freedom camping facilities at Ngakawau Recreation Reserve, Punakaiki, Reefton, and Fox River.

Mr Skinner argues that the council’s freedom camping sites will not only worsen the issue, but hurt local hospitality businesses.

Mr Skinner began developing Glacier Country Campervan Park after witnessing the growing pressure tourism was having on the region. His campground will have 100 unpowered sites, drinking water, free Wi-Fi and recycling facilities – all available for $15 per spot.

“If you can stay for free down the road at a site that New Zealand taxpayers have subsidised, of course why wouldn’t you stay for free?”

Two part-time wardens, who will patrol hotspots around Reefton and Punakaiki during peak season, will be able to issue up to $200 in fines to those caught freedom camping in prohibited areas.

But the Government’s investment has “underestimated” the reality of freedom camping problems, says Mr Skinner, who argues that a few toilets or wardens is a too small of solution for such a widespread problem.

“I think they’ve really underestimated the size of the problem. It will make the situation far worse.”

Rather than investing in sites or wardens, Mr Skinner suggests upgrading town toilet facilities to ease the pressure from busloads of tourists.

“The money could be put toward a more constructive use,” Mr Skinner told RadioLIVE.

Listen to the full interview with Logan Skinner above.

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