Federated Farmers pleads for Government to act to enforce environmental responsibilities on tourists. Sees current response as "a damp tea towel on a bonfire"

Content supplied by Federated Farmers

Media reports over the holiday period have again highlighted the challenge to rural New Zealand from the influx of freedom campers.

In many localities the facilities at popular sites have been overwhelmed. Other high profile stories covered situations where farmers were left to sort out the mess left by campers situated on, or crossing, their land.

For example, a farmer who owns land by Takaka River, in Golden Bay at the top of the South Island, has been asked by the local council to consider serving trespass notices on freedom campers and others living longer-term in vehicles at the site. But a media report says the same council has instructed its own enforcement officer not to patrol the area because of safety concerns.

“Let’s be clear about the problem: tourism is at record levels and freedom camping in particular is on the rise with 44,000 international visitors taking the option last summer,” Federated Farmers local government spokesperson Katie Milne says.

“The government is making plenty in GST but doing little to fund the needs of small communities in need of significant investment to cope.”

While the government has set up a 40 member working group, and has started allocating grants from its new $12m regional tourism facilities fund, there’s little confidence this is a serious attempt to fix things, Milne says.

“We appreciate the provision of a $12m fund to help councils pay for some toilets but at that level the fund seems like a damp tea towel on a bonfire.”

“The government needs to move quickly on calls for a sustainable response, in particular new revenue mechanisms for local councils in addition to rates.”

Rates based on property values are “completely hopeless in this situation,” Milne says.

 “You can’t rate a campervan because it moves, and Department of Conservation land is non-rateable yet frequently the attraction for freedom campers.”

The stance of Federated Farmers is that the Government should “step up, pay some rates and fix the funding mess”.