Controversy after majority of Marlborough's freedom camping sites face closure next month

Over half of Marlborough's freedom camping sites will close next month after the council unanimously voted on a new bylaw.

Just five of the region's 13 current sites will stay open, and only to self-contained vehicles.

The move comes just a week after the new Minister of Tourism announced his plans to crack down on the practice.

Waking up to views of the Marlborough Sounds will soon be a thing of the past for many freedom campers with camping sites across the district closing as part of a new bylaw.

"There'd been a request from lots of the small communities around the district to review that bylaw. They were getting tired of some of the behaviour," says Councillor David Oddie.

"The obvious ones are rubbish left, urinating and defecating in the areas."

From December 1 the new restrictions will come into force.

Currently there are 13 freedom camping sites in Marlborough between Rai Valley and Awatere. Under the new bylaw, eight sites will close next month leaving just five open.

And the Motor Caravan Association isn't happy.

"We think the bylaw is unreasonable. It unfairly punishes tens of thousands of responsible Kiwis," says NZ Motor Caravan Association national policy and planning manager James Imlach.

Other rules mean campers won't be able to spend more than two nights in a row in one place over a four week period.

"The sites they have available are just under pressure because everyone goes to those few areas, so why would they then significantly reduce those few areas to five sites?" asks Imlach.

Freedom campers have had a bad rap in recent years, considered to be low-paying, high-cost tourists.

Even Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has hit out at them.

"No longer will New Zealand communities tolerate the worst of our freedom campers," he said.

Despite slashing the number of sites the Marlborough District Council is looking at expanding capacity at the Wairau Diversion.

"We're looking to develop that for up to 50 vans per night which we think is adequate for the area and we will put new facilities down there," says Oddie.

All in the hopes of keeping the district a tidier place.