Freedom camping: Motorist fumes over $200 fine after sleeping in van after drinking in Arrowtown

A motorist is fuming after copping a $200 fine after choosing to not drink and drive and spend the night safely in a public car park.

Tao Scott is seeking legal advice over the ticket issued last Saturday morning, after he choose to sleep off the drinks he’d had the night before in his self-contained van in a carpark.

“It seems drink driving is recommended in Queenstown District. I have been given a $200 fine in Arrowtown for NOT drink driving,” he said.

“It feels like extortion.”

Scott said three other self-contained vehicles had also stayed in the same carpark overnight but had not been ticketed.

Scott, who said he was a New Zealand Motor Caravan Association member, believed the signage in the public carpark was misleading after he parked in an area seemingly reserved for campervans.

According to Google Maps, a 2019 image of what was believed to be the entrance to the same Ramshaw Lane carpark had a sign which stated, “strictly no camping”.

On Scott’s ticket, it specified his offence was “freedom camping in a prohibited area without prior permission”.

A Queenstown Lakes District Council bylaw prohibits freedom camping in town centres, residential areas and along key stretches of road.

Outside those areas, visitors in certified self-contained vehicles could park for up to two nights at any particular spot on Department of Conservation, district council or NZ Transport Agency land, provided they were a safe distance from a road.

Scott emailed the council, requesting a reduced fine of $50 given his intent not to drive intoxicated, misleading signage, the fact his van was self contained and that it was a one-off.

In response, a council staffer said they would not grant a reduced fine and stated Scott’s right to pursue court action if he wanted to take the matter further.

Scott said he bought the van late last year in a tough time of his life before going on a “personal journey” around the South Island. He said life had been looking up, until he received the ticket.

In 2019,a similar issue arose when Arrowtown man Glenn Wallace was fined $200 for sleeping in his ute in central Queenstown after drinking.

Wallace, who said he knew he should have paid for a taxi or a night in a backpackers, felt the fine sent the wrong message about drink-driving.

“I’m trying to be responsible here, but I’m being punished for it,” he said in 2019.

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