The contradictions of freedom : freedom camping tensions, tourism governance and changing social relationships in the Christchurch and Selwyn districts of New Zealand : a thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Sociology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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In 2011, the National led government of New Zealand hastily enacted the Freedom Camping Act (2011) in order to accommodate the bourgeoning number of foreign tourists expected to arrive for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. This was despite opposition concerns that existing public infrastructure, and particularly sanitation facilities, would not be able to meet the growth in demand. In the years since the introduction of FCA (2011), the popularity of freedom camping primarily among budget conscious Europeans has increased and there has been an ever growing number of freedom campers arriving on New Zealand’s shores. Freedom camping is defined in the Act as camping in self-contained and non-self-contained vehicles on public land managed by local governments or the Department of Conservation. Promoted by the national government and tourism industry for its potential to contribute to national tourism revenue, public and political concerns have surfaced around the social, economic, cultural and environmental costs and benefits of freedom camping. Significant points of tension and conflict have come to characterise freedom camping which illuminate multiple contradictions both in its conceptualisation and the way it is experienced by various groups. Freedom camping is embedded in neoliberal governance and discourse and is a policy directive enacted in national legislation. However, its management is devolved to local governments and its effects are highly localised. In this thesis I examine the different management approaches to freedom camping and the effects of these approaches in two neighbouring areas of New Zealand’s South Island: the Christchurch and Selwyn districts. Christchurch is a major urban area and tourism hub and since 2015 has had a freedom camping bylaw in place which restricts freedom camping in its environs. In contrast, Selwyn is a rural district with a rapidly growing urban centre. It has no freedom camping bylaw and manages two large freedom camping areas in its district. Drawing on extensive document analysis and three weeks of qualitative field research involving interviews, observation and site visits in the two districts in late 2018, this thesis speaks to two specific research questions: • How do people in the Christchurch and Selwyn regional districts feel about freedom camping, the Freedom Camping Act 2011 and its management? • How is freedom camping and the Freedom Camping Act 2011 reshaping social relations within and between the Christchurch and Selwyn regional districts? This thesis locates the FCA (2011) and freedom camping within current discourse on tourism governance in neoliberal government structures and in answering the research questions, explores three key areas. First, I examine the governance of freedom camping, the state of the legislation and how different regional approaches to freedom camping create inconsistency and community stress. Second, I consider freedom camping as a contradictory process of capitalism and interpret economic power over nature through the framework of political ecology. The third area is an analysis of tourist-hosts relations which sets a broader framework to examine tensions over freedom camping’s visibility seen through the cultural lens of the “New Zealand camper identity”. The thesis concludes that freedom camping through the FCA (2011) makes multiple interpretations of freedom compete in, and for, contested public spaces. Four freedoms are identified that emerge from the tensions. Freedom from cost relates to seeking free sites and overusing public space. Freedom of mobility is the legislation encouraging freedom campers to locate themselves in contested public places. Freedom as birthright is New Zealander’s interpretation of freedom in nature as a birthright which is utilized by the national tourism industry. The freedom of regulated responsibility involves the language of freedom being removed from freedom camping by the central government after eight years of significant social and environmental stress due to freedom camping. These freedoms are both interconnected and internally contradictory leaving the future meaning and practice of freedom camping uncertain.
Camp sites, facilities, etc., Recreation areas, Public use, New Zealand, Canterbury, Public opinion, Tourism, Environmental aspects, Government policy, Liberty, Philosophy