Council eyeing freedom camping enforcement for Lake Dunstan

A tougher approach to tackle wayward freedom campers around Central Otago‘s Lake Dunstan may soon be in place.

Lake Dunstan Photo: RNZ

The Central Otago District Council and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) are in talks about what steps can be taken to address problems arising from increasing numbers of tourists freedom camping.

Many people in Central Otago are fed-up with the campers making temporary home on Lake Dunstan‘s waterfront, which is almost exclusively reserve land owned by Land Information New Zealand.

Rubbish and overcrowding have frequently been reported at sites such as Lowburn, Bendigo and Champagne Gully. And while there are some restrictions on the type of vehicle and length of stay campers can spend, there has been little in the way of active enforcement.

Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan said the council was working with LINZ to tackle the problem.

“Enforcement is definitely being looked at,” he said.

“We are not at the stage yet of saying what the enforcement will look like and when it will begin. Those are the finer details we need to be working on before we make a joint announcement.”

The organisations are aiming to have an enforcement regime in place by next summer.

“Certainly it‘s both my hope and the hope of LINZ – I think I can go further and say intention – that there will be changes coming in the next busy season,” Mr Cadogan said.

The council would also be looking at implementing a bylaw to back up the regime and prevent freedom campers moving to other areas around the district and creating issues there, he said.

A LINZ spokesman said the two organisations were in discussion about a “range of potential future options for managing freedom camping in Central Otago”.

“This includes strengthening our monitoring regime and looking at how we can best manage our costs given growing demand, particularly at peak times, as part of a wider freedom camping strategy which is still being developed,” he said.

“However, there are no immediate plans to introduce enforcement at freedom camping areas, given that discussions about future options are still ongoing and that the strategy is still in its early stages. The strategy is not expected to be formalised until later in the year.”