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Are South Island freedom campers unfairly costing ratepayers money? 'Complex little matrix' of issues to be cracked by working group

Whether you consider them an unruly burden on our outdoor public facilities or the torchbearers for the adventurous spirit, freedom campers are a dilemma the government and local mayors are trying to nut out.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has established a working group to resolve the infrastructure issues freedom campers pose.

Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne was at the meeting and is very optimistic about the practical outcomes the group will reach.

"Really positive, it's a widespread issue and it just affects different communities in quite different ways at times and it depends how concentrated the freedom camping is or not," Mr Kempthorne told TVNZ's Breakfast today.

"Some people really want more of them there and others say we've got too many, so we've got quite a range of issues around the country so it's really good to have working group with the ministry and the minister to actually look at solutions."

Mayor Kempthorne said one of the first things local and national governments want is uniform signage across the country - that freedom campers will recognise and abide by.

"If we can develop more consistency around the country, if we can have consistent signage so wherever people go they get to know what the signs mean, that would be really helpful," he said.

Mayor Kempthorne said he believed there would be a review of the Freedom Camping Act (2011).

However, the Tasman Mayor said any law changes had to be very careful not to negatively affect the multi-billion dollar Kiwi tourism industry which rural communities depend on.

"I think you've got to say 'how golden is our hospitality and tourism industry?' and it's a huge income earner for New Zealand.

"We've got hotels, motels, in our district we've got a lot of holiday homes that are let over the summer and then there's campers."

Yet, Mr Kempthorne did admit that freedom campers were, to some extent, unfairly costing rate payers money.

"Yeah I there is a little bit of that," he said

"One of the solutions will be basic facilities for people, and then people can go there and then they won't go in the residential areas where some of the problems occur.

"So it's quite a complex little matrix, it's a matter of trying to find the right balance." 

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis is meeting with NZ mayors to find a solution to the messy freedom camping dilemma. Source: Breakfast