Contest your freedom camping fines: Mayor Lewers

by Lauren Pattemore - Apr 12, 2023

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Glyn Lewers says anyone sleeping rough in their vehicles who receives a freedom camping fine from his council should contest it.

“I'd encourage them to actually talk to our team – our monitoring team. They do assess each of those fines on an individual basis," the mayor says.

Marketa, at the March housing protest, had to pay $200 for sleeping in her car, but she doesn't have a home to sleep in.

The council’s Freedom Camping Bylaw 2021 means that unless you’re sleeping in a certified self-contained vehicle, such as a motor caravan or campervan, you’re breaking the bylaw and at risk of a $200 fine.

One of the unintended consequences of this bylaw, introduced to "protect the environment from harm", is that Queenstown’s working homeless are getting caught by it too.

At last month's housing protest, Marketa (surname withheld) shared she'd had to cough up $200 because of the restrictions, when she'd been sleeping rough out of necessity.

Marketa has been living out of the car she shares with her partner for five months after they were turfed out of their three-year rental after it became an Airbnb.

The couple has become increasingly strategic with where they park up, finding more secret spots since then – but despite this, every night, there’s at least one other vehicle parked up near them, she says.

Mayor Lewers says the council has no plans to temporarily remove some areas from the bylaw despite the rental crisis, but encourages those who thought they'd been unfairly fined to contact the council.

Currently, the bylaw prohibits freedom camping on some public land across the district including the central Queenstown CBD and surrounding suburbs, Coronet Peak road, the road to Glenorchy, and Glenorchy itself.

Also, Arrowtown - including the Whitechapel Reserve - Gibbston, the Crown Range Road, Cardrona, Wānaka, Luggate, and Hāwea.

A QLDC bylaw prohibits freedom camping in many Queenstown suburbs.

So, what else is council doing to address housing?

Mayor Lewers says there is a housing initiative in the works that looks to provide a shorter-term, solution to the current accommodation shortage for workers. 

Crux is under the impression it involves coordinating with homeowners to open their houses temporarily to those without a place to stay.

An announcement on this is expected in the coming weeks.

Mayor Lewers says there is also the joint housing action plan, which will be brought to elected members in April or May before opening for public consultation.

He could not share how many homes would be produced in the area as a result of this new action plan – which he says has short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals.

This is because the plan involves working with partner organisations and government agencies and having “continual discussions” with them, he says.

“Obviously, we're (council) not in the game of building houses ourselves. We don't have that skill set, nor do I think there's an appetite by the community for us to do that. So we're more looking at it, engaging with partners, engaging with people to provide that and we've had many conversations with many different people about that.”

This includes Kāinga Ora, Kai Tahu, Waka Kotahi and Queenstown Community Housing Trust, and Ministry for Housing and Urban Development.

The option to develop rural land along Ladies Miles has recently been given a procedural helping hand by Minister for the Environment David Parker, and Mayor Lewers says if this rezoning goes ahead, allowing for the implementation of the area's masterplan, it will bring up to 2,500 medium and high-density homes into the market.

Although unable to provide a completion date, Mayor Lewers says building could begin by the end of 2024.

“Obviously you've got the building consents and all the engineering approvals to go through, so, potentially, you could see that [development begin] within the next 18 months.”

It was reported by Mountain Scene that a tiny home builder in Christchurch could provide houses for people in the Queenstown Lakes community, and Makoha Small Homes director, Sam Rickard had been put in touch with Mayor Lewers.

However, Mayor Lewers says financing tiny homes is not a financially viable option for the council, and they will not be investing in this.

“He (Sam Rickard) said he could provide tiny homes and provide 20 homes over three months at $75,000…that's a $1.5 million investment. That’s the cost. And, then, who's going to pay for it?”

The mayor says he has been inundated with similar messages from tiny home construction companies as of late - around one email a day.

Read more: Wellington's coming to Queenstown to talk housing

Advertise with Crux Advertise with Crux