Freedom campers are getting a bad name because of a few bad apples, says a regional tourism organisation.
Recent publicity of freedom campers littering and going to soup kitchens is not a reflection on the majority who are respectful of New Zealand, according to Regional Tourism New Zealand.
Executive officer Charlie Ives says freedom campers are an important part of the mix of visitors attracted to New Zealand and he warns that some tourists are getting a bad name when they are not necessarily causing the problems.
"There is a wide diversity of people who camp for a variety of reasons including visitors, seasonal workers, and New Zealanders who own their own motor-homes and the vast majority of freedom campers do so responsibly," he said.
But he also felt the country needed to toughen up and impose penalties on those who clearly know the rules and break them anyway.
"They are the ones we don't want, and we need to target them to change behaviours."
Mr Ives says a lot of the issues have arisen as a consequence of freedom campers not knowing the rules and, he feels there is good reason for that.
"There is confusion in the bylaws across the country that any visitor would be bewildered by.
"Some regions have no bylaw, while others have a bylaw, sometimes with different rules about where you can park, where you are banned, where you get rid of waste, what the penalties are or even if there are penalties.
"We should be providing clear direction to freedom campers as to where they can camp and what the rules are."
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Some councils have reacted to local concerns, and in Queenstown, the Mayor heeded a resident petition and banned freedom camping from two popular spots.
Others, including Wellington, are toughening up on "non-self-contained" vans illegally parking.