02 June 2011

Penguins need protection from campers, DOC says

NEW ZEALAND - The Department of Conservation (DOC) has told Waitaki District Council that penguins on the North Otago coastline should be protected from freedom campers.

Freedom camping is camping in places other than at a licensed camping ground or other approved and designated camping area. The Council prepared a draft Environmental Nuisance and Freedom Camping Control bylaw for consultation in response to growing local and national concern about the impact of freedom camping on the environment and community.

In her submission to the draft bylaw, DOC solicitor Pene Williams listed five areas where penguins, mostly yellow-eyed, had breeding colonies: Bushy Beach, Shag Point, Katiki Beach, Moeraki Peninsula and Tavora Beach. Within these areas there are public places, such as carparks, where DOC's director-general would prefer not to see freedom camping permitted.

"Research has indicated that penguin nesting success is significantly decreased if birds are disturbed by people," she said.

"There is also a concern that people will have dogs with them who could also disturb these vulnerable birds."

The Council received 19 submissions on the draft but will hold off adopting the bylaw until the Government's Freedom Camping Bill - introduced to Parliament in May - has been passed. The new law will let councils and DOC determine where camping is allowed, where it is restricted to vehicles with self-containment, and where it is prohibited.

Campers risky for penguin colonies, 25 May 2011, The Timaru Herald
Freedom camping bylaw delayed by Alex Fensome, 25 May 2011, The Oamaru Mail
New freedom camping laws announced, 15 May 2011, Office of the Acting Conservation Minister
Draft Environmental Nuisance and Freedom Camping Control Bylaw 2011, Waitaki District Council (accessed 1 June 2011)

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