Clutha District Council (CDC) says freedom camping is being diligently policed, despite complaints from Catlins locals.

‘‘Some nights it’s full, and some of them are just ordinary cars,’’ Pounawea Motor Camp operator Lee-Ann Dey said, referring to the Owaka freedom camping site on Inn St.

Freedom camping is increasing in some areas with the return of travellers since the relaxation of Covid-19 rules, and the Catlins is known for frequent illegal camping.

While Dunedin City Council announced last month it was cutting freedom camping patrols, CDC chief executive Steve Hill said Clutha was not following suit.

‘‘Monitoring of camping compliance has not been reduced,’’ he said.

‘‘The freedom-camping ranger works fulltime, five days a week — all weekends and public holidays. We do not rely on the CSC sticker on the windscreen.

‘‘All vehicles are checked for self-containment, which includes an actual check of the vehicle and equipment.

‘‘In general, freedom camping sites are checked twice a day, with one check in the late evening. The vehicles are counted, and any removals of non-compliant vehicles recorded in a daily log.’’

The 2011 Freedom Camping Act states if a vehicle is certified self-contained and has the required equipment, the vehicle and its occupants are legally allowed to freedom-camp.

Councils have no legal grounds to act against or remove a vehicle from a freedom camp site — or elsewhere — if the rules are being followed.

‘‘Just because the vehicle is not a type that we would prefer to see being used for freedom camping, does not give council the authority to remove it if it complies. However, when vehicles are found to be noncompliant, they are removed,’’ Mr Hill said.

CDC’s ranger is responsible for managing freedom camping throughout the whole district with extra focus on the Catlins and coastal areas.

Some illegal camping hot-spots require more frequent visits and the ranger is also tasked with monitoring littering, vehicles on beaches and on-the-spot dog control.

Mr Hill said in the last six-week reporting period (March and April) the ranger inspected 341 vehicles of which 48 were removed when found to be in breach of the rules.

The majority were sent to campsites with proper facilities, with a few who did not want to pay for a campsite refused permission to camp within the district and sent away.

Ms Dey remained unconvinced, saying the Owaka site was often at capacity and it was hard to believe many of the vehicles had toilets on board.

‘‘This is heartbreaking for all of us accommodation businesses,’’ she said.

‘‘We’re all feeling it.

‘‘We’ve all watched this happening since Christmas but nothing’s happening about it [even though] we’ve been complaining.’’

CDC planning and regulatory services support officer Olivia Dickson said often vehicles which looked like they were noncompliant were generally found to be compliant.

‘‘The only way that we can take action is by doing a check of the vehicle to confirm if they meet the requirements.

‘‘We cannot remove vehicles just because they do not ‘look’ self-contained from the outside and when we [have] completed our check, we mostly we find that they are in fact compliant.’’

The public can report freedom camping issues via the CDC website, Antenno app or calling 0800 801 350.