Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has called a meeting with mayors from districts across the North and South Islands to discuss solutions to issues around freedom camping.

“New Zealanders value their right to freedom camp and we want international visitors to explore our country – but there has to be respect for our natural environment,” Mr Davis says.

“Responsible freedom campers are welcomed in our regions and the vast majority are respectful. But there are problems in some areas. I’ve been hearing dissatisfaction with the current situation – with complaints relating to noise, litter, human waste, overcrowding and blocked access to public spaces.

“I’ve been talking to some mayors but want to get a handle on where the pressure points are across the country, as well as what is and isn’t working under the current regime. We have an opportunity to address some freedom camping issues before next summer’s tourist season. I am also interested in talking to the mayors about how freedom camping is managed across New Zealand, including taking a broader look at the place of freedom camping in our tourism offering.”

International visitors who freedom camp often spend more than other visitors because they tend to stay in New Zealand for longer. In the past ten years, the number of international visitors doing at least some freedom camping during their stay has risen from around 30,000 to 115,000 annually.

This is in addition to the many Kiwis who freedom camp, such as trampers, cyclists, hunters, surfers, seasonal workers and the 70,000 members of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association.

“The aim of the meeting is for central and local government to discuss actions we can each take to deal with the growing numbers of freedom campers,” Mr Davis says.

“The issues are complex and there’s no easy fix, so central and local government need to take a collaborative approach and find solutions that will work for everyone. For tourism to continue growing in New Zealand and remain successful over the longer term, we need to listen to our communities and get this right.”

Currently local councils and the Department of Conservation make decisions about where and how freedom camping is permitted on land under their control (under the Freedom Camping Act).

Invitations have been sent to 22 mayors. Mr Davis will meet with the mayors in Wellington, in early March.

The Mayors’ invited are from Buller District, Central Otago District, Christchurch City, Dunedin City, Far North District, Gisborne District, Hauraki District, Hurunui District, Kaikoura District, Mackenzie District, Nelson City, New Plymouth District, Queenstown Lakes District, Ruapehu District, Southland District, Tasman District, Taupo District, Timaru District, Wellington City, Whanganui District, Whakatane District, and Whangarei District.

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