Well it’s been a glorious start to New Zealand’s first open season for hunters of Freedom Campers.
Last February the president of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, Dick Waters issued a second call for freedom campers to be “shot” if they use vans that don’t have their own toilet facilities.
Mr Waters, was reported as having said that
“Messy freedom campers who trundle around the country in sleeper vans without toilets or self-contained utilities should be “shot”.
It followed similar comments he made in January.
At the time we said effectively declaring open season on certain types of campers wasn’t going to do much to enhance the country’s tarnished reputation for visitor safety. Read Freedom Campers “Should be Shot,” 15 February 2010.
Even if Mr Waters’ comments were meant to shock, rather than be taken literally, it may cause certain elements of NZ society to feel less than ‘gracious’ towards visitors, who may now be viewed as little more than vermin. Rednecks with guns on a mission aren’t a good combination, in any country.
How right we were, because it would seem that someone may have taken up Mr Waters on his invitation to have a crack at campers.
A couple camping in Tamatea Point in Pakawau were lucky to escape with their lives after someone ” shot at, smashed and attempted to set fire to their campervan” at 5.50 one morning, presumably they were sleeping in it at the time.
The holidaymakers, a “44-year-old male New Zealander and a 36-year-old New Zealand-residing Chinese woman,” from Hamilton
“had earlier been verbally abused about freedom camping in the area and police say the attack may have been an “extreme, over-the-top reaction” to the practice.” Source NZ Herald
Apparently a man has been arrested in relation to the incident, charged with attempted murder and given name suppression. The Herald said that he has a holiday property on the reserve on which the campervan has been parked.
Stuff provided more in-depth coverage than the Herald, saying the both of the couple were of Chinese origin and gave the following additional information
The Tasman District Council reserve is a popular site for public beach access and there are no signs banning freedom camping.
Golden Bay residents are growing increasingly intolerant of issues posed by freedom campers which include littering and defecating in public places.
The intolerance came to a head last month when the Golden Bay Community Board made an urgent request to the Tasman District Council to have a compliance officer based in the bay to monitor problems. A council officer is monitoring the bay during January and February.
In April last year, freedom campers were forced off land near the Waitapu Bridge spot by angry Golden Bay local…” more here
The have been plenty of other incidents recently where tourists have been attacked and robbed whilst using campervans but this is the first we’ve heard of where an attempt has been made to burn them out. Read Welsh Couple Left Without a Penny in New Plymouth 7 January 2011.
In another incident last year a couple of campers at Haast Beach were threatened and when they moved into Haast township were threatened again.
Months from now thousands of world cup rugby fans will be descending on New Zealand, eager to hire out campervans and totally unaware of the risks they are taking by not using authorised campsites.
Neither are they aware that they will be targeted by thieves if they leave their vehicles in public car parks or on the roadside. It would be a bit rough to loose those prized match tickets in addition to cameras, iPods, treasured holiday snaps, passports and credit cards.
We think mass public information campaigns are needed, and fast.
One to warn tourists about the dangers and how to keep themselves safe and another to encourage locals in New Zealand to have a more relaxed and accommodating attitude towards visitors.
Hug a camper today.