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Country information New Zealand has been struggling to cope with the influx of freedom campers to its campsites around Lake Dunstan and may close them, a special committee was told yesterday.

If it came to a closure, Cromwell would be inundated with freedom campers, the Central Otago County Council said.

The Council yesterday submitted an Oral Submission to the Committee on Economic Development, Science and Innovation on the Independent Car Legislation Bill.

The bill will require a certified, self-contained vehicle to stay overnight on council-managed land as the government seeks to ban free camping.

Alix Crosbie, the council’s senior strategy adviser, told the select committee the council supported the bill overall but had some concerns about unintended consequences it would have for the council.

They focused on the lack of any funding mechanisms to proactively manage freedom campers and the costs of enforcement.

Crown agencies and their funding were outside the scope of the bill.

Ms Crosbie said Central Otago is a popular destination for campers and is right next to Queenstown’s tourist district.

It was the country’s fourth largest county by area – about 10,000 square kilometers – but had only 14,569 taxpayers.

There were designated Crown Land campsites around Lake Dunstan managed by Land Information New Zealand (Linz).

The sites had minimal facilities and were only available for short-term stays.

Rules and length of stay were monitored and enforced.

The council paid for the basic equipment in these camps, not the crown.

Ms Crosbie said the ideal scenario would be to provide camping facilities in the district and the Crown could fund that, but the Crown wanted out altogether, she said.

“We are also aware that Linz, particularly in Central Otago, is struggling to cope with the level of camper freedom on these sites and have flagged the possibility of closure if we do not fund this.

“We have immediate concerns that the closure of these three sites would immediately swamp Cromwell.

“Linz told us they don’t have a funding mechanism or budget to fund it.”

She also said small councils should be in a group that would have a defined approach to freedom camping, unlike larger councils.

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