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The Perennial Camping Toilet Issue 

What our Council pioneered in regard to freedom camping was to devise a by-law that met the needs of  rate-payers and the Environment Court, which had rejected earlier versions that failed to stipulate just where serviced, and non-serviced vehicles could lay-up.

Other councils took close note of what was developed here, and there are reports of it being replicated with varying degrees of local support elsewhere. It is amazing how a by-law can stir the emotions of people who believe that their rights are being infringed.

Much of what went on a year ago is now being smudged by the smoke-screen of the repulsive Aussie Wicked intruder. Their vehicles have no redeeming features while its juvenile humour appeals to vast numbers of penniless back-packers. Their contribution to local economies remains moot – it is minimal at best in the view of many, but it is the sector of the market that is getting vast coverage in the back-packer media.  

I have no view on that as I simply do not have the information, similar apparently to the situation facing our Government which always manages to avoid awkward decisions in these situations – “Don’t tell us, we don’t wish to know!”

What is of far greater concern to the average citizen is the defacement of roadsides and coastlines (in this area at least), and not just by the ill-equipped vans of the Wicked variety, but others that have devised rudimentary toilet facilities of the porta-loo variety that are generally the only pristine item in the vehicles.

The new requirement is for properly equipped vehicles to have licence stickers issued by the Motor Caravan Association or VTNZ that attest to the required capacity/usability of on-board facilities. It is interesting that this has made the authority of Council rangers far more effective, and social media sees to getting the message out regarding the $200 fines.

But there lies the rub, It is precisely this issue where John Key as Tourism Minister has completely missed the point in making $12m (over four years) available in the forth-coming budget for councils to erect toilets of varying sophistication at key lay-up spots.

It is a start, but they could allocate $100m to this task and still only scratch the surface – these peripatetics want to lay-up everywhere – they are not necessarily looking for toilets, having become used to the wide-open countryside, and lovely beaches, though they constantly use the absence of toilets as their excuse for unacceptable waste deposits. Rangers should be required to report on the colourful variety of excuses with which they provided, but you can imagine.   

What the Government will not do is put in place the one measure that would kill the anti-social behaviour over-night, and that is to support the imposition of the fines that have been put in place here and elsewhere, and that are simply ignored by overseas visitors (once again, thanks to the versatility of social media!). They end up I suspect in most cases simply being used to facilitate toilet activities.

What is required? – The simple passing of appropriate legislation (or regulation) to require  van hiring companies to deduct fines on credit cards on behalf of councils when they receive copies of the fine documentation. Locals can be chased through the court system, but overseas visitors are generally beyond reach other than through their credit cards, and know it!

Van companies have thus far refused any responsibility to assist councils in this manner, and have indeed thumbed their collective noses at any seeking their assistance. They have demonstrated a contemptuous disregard that will only be tempered when sanctions are in place, but to date John Key and his Government have resisted such moves as being in the ‘nanny state’ category. It does not stop the van companies from recovering speeding and other fines in this manner.

Councils could help themselves to some degree by adopting modern hand held card processing technology (albeit, at a cost!), though it will not work in every geographic situation.

It is time that pressure was brought to bear to force this issue – before the next election!





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