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Mark Ebrey Weighs In On Freedom Camping

Remember Mark? - he was formerly the Communications Manager at TCDC (when  it was a 'one-man' outfit!), and more recently a tourism operator in Tauramanui. His story in today's NZH,  in very interesting and well worth a read.

There are a couple of observations made by Mark that jumped out for me - one was that he demonstrates a  naivety in assuming that what are now dozens of operators could be coralled into agreeing to a 'voucher' system, and secondly, that members of the MCA (Motor Caravan Association) are not the 'lilly-whites' as their management like to portray them.

Firstly, the hirers - NZ Motorhomes Group (parent - Tourism Holdings Ltd) are by far the largest with well over 50% of the market through its various franchises, but there are dozens of others ranging from tiny outfits to high end operators (of whom incidentally Mary Hamilton is prominent), and who are fiercely independent, and trying to serve one particular section of the market. Most of these are meeting the needs of 'lowest cost' back-packer arrivals, who would 'run a mile' from the addition of a 'voucher' cost.

How on earth Mark would propose legislating for such an outcome completely escapes me. Even if it was achieved, the chances are that it would 'gamed' mercilessly even if only to meets the needs of competing in the market. You only have to see the insurance costs that are piled on a hire to understand just how competitive this game has become, even if lucrative.

It would easier in effect to legislate all 'non-complying' vehicles off the road - and just imagine the uproar that would cause. No, we have accept that we are simply a 'low-cost' mecca that back-packers from all over the World love to visit because of the facilities on offer. Beating by-laws is simply part of the game, and we have to be prepared to play that game with firmness and real penalties for transgressions, even wheel-clamping where necessary. It (apart from the latter!) is working here - why not all over the country? Recovering fines at the border through the hire companies by way of instant electronic ticketing should ensure fidelity. That should be able to be accomplished wiothout too much difficulty.

Basically, Mark's other suggestions for variations in the services provided by camp-grounds are impractical, and unlikely to attract owners of such facilities.

Mark's final claim that "the reality is that many members of the MCA will avoid using their on-board toilets where possible" is right on the mark. The MCA goes to great pains to set up sites where its members can park up, and where they can avoid the 'no-camping' restrictions. But the fact of the matter is that 'on-board' facilities have only limited capacity, and there is plenty of evidence that these facilities are emptied illegally on the roadside in laybys and elsewhere - particularly where there is considerable distance between approved 'dump-sites.'  By their very nature, these 'dump-sites can only exist in towns where there are waste-water facilities, and this can be quite a 'put-off' for travellers in the 'wop-wops.' 

But overall, Mark's article opens a whole range of discussion points that need to be explored - I hope that happens.




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