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

New Zealand

Tao Scott woke to find a $200 fine for sleeping off drinks the night before in a carpark in Arrowtown. Photo / Supplied

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

Tao Scott is seeking legal advice over the ticket issued last Saturday morning, after he chose 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”.

Scott’s ticket 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 incident.

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 for him, until he received the ticket.

Freedom campers in Whanganui. Photo / NZME
Freedom campers in Whanganui. Photo / NZME

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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