Careless Campers Vs Communities
December 27 2018 by Justine Farquharson
While some legitimately use freedom camping to enjoy New Zealand’s natural environment, there are others who take advantage. It’s time we have an honest conversation about the ‘Careless campers’. Careless campers believe there is no need to pre-book accommodation. New Zealand’s special spots have been tainted by careless campers washing themselves, dishes and clothes in our waterways. Using the bush and rest areas as open-air toilets, and leaving behind rubbish for the community to pick up and dispose of.
I wonder how they came to believe that this was an option and who is promoting or, more accurately, pimping out New Zealand to the careless camper. Why are we, as a country and community making a commitment to the careless camper, by providing more free facilities for their exclusive use? Who is gaining financially from the careless camper and who foots the bill to ‘host’ them? Our petition launched last summer to change freedom camping regulations gained more than 15,000 signatures from all over the country. It’s very clear that we are fed up with New Zealand being pimped out and it is affecting visitor experience as much as our sense of home. A group of us have since investigated the Freedom Camping Act 2011, talked to local and national government, and talked to campers and camping organisations.
The petition from last summer wasn’t enough. If there is change, it’s incremental. More action is required. It’s time to turn our values into a strong vision for our country and what we want it to be in the future for both visitors and especially those who live here. The quantity over quality scenario, where we encourage as many people as we can to visit New Zealand, is damaging! We value our country and its residents and gladly welcome travellers who are not taxing on our environment and our way of life. But the cost of welcoming too many travellers, and the unbridled growth and promotion of New Zealand as a destination for camping and self-drive holidays, seems to cost the communities and other visitors their enjoyment of our green spaces and puts pressure on our environment and infrastructure.
We are coming up to that season again where we also know that safety on our roads is an issue. I truly believe that we are making progress – but it’s too slow. All New Zealanders must continue to actively encourage and apply pressure on local and central government to solve our ‘Careless Camper’ issues. We have a lot of smart people with solutions. Let’s be heard as a community and refuse to accept being overrun, yet again, by that select group of people who don’t know or care to do better.