Marlborough Express - Have your say on freedom camping in Marlborough

Monday, March 7, 2016

Last month I travelled to Tekapo for the annual forum of the Bluegreens, the National Party's advisory group on environmental issues.

Held at the wonderful Mt John Homestead, the forum was a valuable chance to hear about and discuss some of the major environmental initiatives and challenges facing our country.

There was of course the announcement of proposed new measures to improve the management of New Zealand's rivers, lakes, aquifers and wetlands, in a consultation document released by Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

There was also a great speech by Bronwen Golder, who leads the Pew Charitable Trusts' Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Initiative in New Zealand.

The 620,000-square kilometre sanctuary was announced by Prime Minister John Key in September and has attracted a lot of international interest. It will be one of the world's largest and most fully protected areas where no fishing, mining or oil extraction is permitted.

I gave a presentation about our own proposed Marlborough Sounds Recreational Fishing Park.

It was a delight to visit the beautiful Mackenzie Country and in particular to see the fascinating University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory, the astronomical research centre located in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.

What tarnished the sought-after natural beauty of Lake Tekapo was the presence of and more specifically the mess left by some of freedom campers.

The famous Church of the Good Shepherd, the subject of so many magical photographs, doesn't have toilet facilities so some inconsiderate people are defecating in the bushes and are also dumping rubbish there. To see this iconic, historic place being tarnished in this manner is a terrible shame and it is left up to the local council to manage the issue.

How to manage freedom camping is an issue that many parts of the country, including Marlborough, have been grappling with for years.

Besides the mess that some inconsiderate campers leave, one of my personal issues is the Wicked campervans which are painted with risque language and explicit words and slogans.

I do not consider myself a prude, but some of the statements on these vans are a bit extreme and I can understand why people might find them objectionable.

I am clearly not alone in my distaste of some of the Wicked campervans.

Up north, the Whangarei District Council is looking to implement a local bylaw that would allow it to prosecute Wicked Campers if campervans painted with offensive or objectionable material are found in the district.

I encourage Marlborough ratepayers to have their say on freedom camping and Wicked Campers in our district, you can do this by making a submission on the Marlborough District Council's draft annual plan, which are accepted until May 9.

Council is also reviewing its Freedom Camping Bylaw, which you can read on the council's website. Submissions for this bylaw are open until April 8.