Anti-freedom camping petition pulled after threats of violence

An anti-freedom camping activist has withdrawn a petition to ban the practise, saying she's received "several threats of violence".

Thousands of people had signed Jennifer Branje's petition on the Parliament website. It called for a ban on freedom camping by foreign tourists when the borders are reopened, following the pandemic.

"We've got a chance to reset here and we need high value, not high volume," she told Newshub earlier this week. 

Freedom campers have regularly made headlines, with many Kiwis feeling they don't spend enough money here and spoil the environment. 

"The freedom campers aren't spending anything in our district," Grey District Mayor Tania Gibson told Newshub.

"When they are here, they are sitting in their vans eating noodles, or passing through or just getting petrol."

Branje said since launching the petition, she's discovered "the topic could not be approached with civility".

"Kiwis are passionate people and everybody should have the opportunity to instigate change without fear of violence. The safety of myself and my family has to come first," she said.

"It's hard to sleep at night when people are threatening to set up camp in your driveway, destroy your business and assault you as you go about your daily business."

The petition had almost 8000 signatories when she pulled it.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said complaints about freedom camping have dramatically decreased in the past few years.

"It goes against our manaakitanga that we are famous for in NZ and Bill of Rights. We are looking at re-imagining the tourism sector and discriminating against others won't be a part of that future," he said.

One industry expert told Newshub a ban would be short-sighted, as freedom campers might be the first back here when the border restrictions are lifted.

New Zealand shut its borders in March in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. It's unclear when they'll reopen, with suggestions it might be up to Kiwis to keep one of our biggest industries afloat in the meantime.

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