Steeper penalties and fines are coming as part of a proposed crackdown on irresponsible freedom camping with plans to increase costs for those who break the rules.
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has released a plan to raise costs for those who break the rules and tighten the standard for self-driving vehicles, and is bringing it to the public for comment.
He is clear on what he wants.
“I would like motorhomes or non-autonomous vehicles to be banned. But we are putting this out for consultation and I am ready to be influenced,” Nash said.
“There are too many stories in our country of tourists parking in these vehicles in areas that have no facilities, and of course the only place they can go to the toilet is by the roadside, in rivers. or in the bush, and that’s totally unacceptable. “
Two of the options on the table include making it mandatory to freedom camping in a vehicle in a certified autonomous vehicle or allowing non-certified vehicles if they are staying at a site with a toilet.
He didn’t want to see the end of freedom camping, but Nash wanted it to be done responsibly, by the rules, and in the right place.
The proposal would give stronger powers to enforce the rules, including a regulatory system for the certification of autonomous vehicles with a centralized vehicle register, add more grounds for vehicle confiscation for breaches of requirements, and strengthen the standard for autonomous vehicles.
They are said to be looking to bring in plumbers and gas installers to make sure toilets and other systems are properly installed and working, he said.
The proposal could also increase fines to $ 1,000.
“A fine at the moment is $ 200. It’s not enough,” Nash said.
When people were fined, they had 30 days to pay it and another 30 days before the collection process started, he said.
“It’s been 60 days and a lot of tourists are saying, ‘Well pack the car and come home and forget it’. We must therefore ensure that the enforcement regime is suitable for its purpose, is a great deterrent. But we would too. look at the rental companies being really responsible for the fines incurred by their customers. “
The proposal also states that the burden of collecting fines from campers who rent vehicles may fall on the rental companies.
Tui Campers chief operating officer Trudy Williams said her company had already sued fines because they were the ones who received the notifications.
But she wanted to see some changes before the responsibility for paying the unpaid fines fell entirely on the rental companies.
“They have to set up a system in which there is a central system that we can verify like you can at the NZTA with the tolls. So when a customer or a tenant comes back, we can go online and say, ‘well, you’ve got this offense, this offense. You don’t go until she’s been paid, ”Williams said.
Without it, she said it would be neither fair nor easy to collect the fines.
She agreed with most of the proposals, but said private vehicles and rental vehicles needed to be classified differently.
“You know I’ve heard of it. They get certified as autonomous and then they remove the toilets. As the rental operator, we will insist that a toilet go with the tenant.
Williams wanted to hear more talk about whether the toilets should be installed permanently.
“People can still abuse the freedom of camping or the use of vehicles. It’s easy to empty a stationary toilet in an inappropriate place like a river bed or something like it’s for someone to empty a portable toilet.
“That doesn’t negate the abuse of it, it probably increases the proportion of compliance.”
Mangawhai Heads Holiday Park manager Richard Gunson was happy with most of the proposals but said one thing was missing.
“This means that someone in a properly self-contained vehicle can park right next to my border and access my facilities for free, and they currently do. We would like to be protected from the theft that continues,” Gunson said.
He had a simple solution: Free-range camping should be banned in all 50 km / h zones unless the local authority gives it the green light after public consultation.
“That way we have a say ‘no they shouldn’t park here. But they can park there “.”
Overall, Aotearoa Tourism Industry General Manager Chris Roberts was happy with the proposals.
“There are some very well-intentioned measures here and they may well be the right measures, but they all need to be tested very carefully because what we don’t want are the unintended consequences of a well-meaning measure,” he said. said Roberts.
“What we see in this document reflects a lot of the discussion that has taken place in recent times and it’s just a matter of making sure we’re doing things right.”
The discussion paper acknowledged that there was no government body properly overseeing the self-containment standard, he said.
Roberts planned to recommend the NZTA for the job as part of his bid.
Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult was also happy with the proposals.
“Hats off to the minister for raising this issue. This has been a sore point in New Zealand for a number of years. It was a major problem here a few years ago before we changed our statutes,” he said. he said.
Submissions close in the middle of next month, with Nash saying he would like to have a system in place before other borders start opening next year.