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Rahui Katene Speech: Freedom of Camping Bill

Rahui Katene Speech: Freedom of Camping Bill - Second Reading

MP for Te Tai Tonga
Thursday 11 August 2011; 3.40pm

This Bill rests upon the concept of freedom.

It responds to the practice of 'freedom camping' which is when people camp away from sites that are recognised as camping grounds.

Any legislative attempt to define or interpret the concept of freedom - whether it is in the context of camping or not - is of course asking for trouble.

And we are reminded of the challenge from Abraham Lincoln: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves".

The question in this case is, however, not black and white.

Because the so-called freedom for tourists to pitch a tent; to park up in their caravan; to drive their car, campervan, housetruck, or any other type of vehicle on to a piece of land, has brought with it adverse consequences for those living around the area, and particularly for mana whenua who take very seriously their responsibilities for kaitiakitanga; for guardianship of tribal land.

And so I choose another interpretation of freedom - this one from Janis Joplin in her ode to Bobby McGee: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose".

For what we have experienced with freedom camping in my electorate of Te Tai Tonga, has a massive loss in terms of the way the litter of human waste has trampled on the mana of the local people, and the special places in our rohe.

I have raised this issue over a year ago, in March 2010, when I called on freedom campers to show respect and for local business owners to inform manuhiri of the need to be careful with their rubbish and body waste.

The problem of freedom camping has been particularly apparent in Te Wai Pounamu - no doubt because of our priceless beauty and our unique landscapes which draw tourists to them in huge numbers.

And so we have frequently reported sightings of the freedom camper species in areas like Fiordland, Otago, Southland, West Coast, Nelson-Marlborough, and they have even been reported in major centres like Christchurch.

To get an indication of the scale of the problem, at the top of the South, in the Marlborough District complaints over irresponsible freedom camping increased from eighty in 2006, right up to 432 in 2009. Most complaints were for non-self-contained vehicles used by overseas visitors.

At the other end of the motu, in Queenstown, Department of Conservation staff monitored six sites with "no camping" signs during February-April 2010. Between one and four vans was found at each site per visit. Human waste and toilet paper was common and widespread.

The issue had erupted for me, over the disrespect accorded Nga Niho Pa - a traditional pa site in Kaikoura. The ultimate offence was shown when these so-called freedom campers were using this traditional pa site to empty their toilet waste.

And so yes, from a basis of cultural integrity, we certainly agree with the sentiment expressed in the lyrics, there's nothing left to lose.

The Maori Party will fight to the nth degree to protect and preserve Papatuanuku - to care for our environment in a way befitting.

And so, I have much pleasure in announcing that in time for this second reading, I have released a supplementary order paper to ensure that mana whenua are intimately associated with monitoring, supervising and making decisions around the provisions to combat freedom camping.

My amendment inserts a new clause 3A: Tiriti o Waitangi.

The amendment notes that in order to recognise and respect the Crown's responsibility to take appropriate account of the Tiriti o Waitangi, local authorities and any person acting on behalf of local authorities must act in a way that is consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, when exercising powers or functions under the Act.

I think that it is really important when we consider any legislation, that we consider what does it mean for tangata whenua, as the indigenous peoples of this land; and a Treaty clause is a very clear way of being able to formalise intent into action.

Acting in a Treaty compliant manner would ensure consultation with iwi as an important means of protecting the integrity of the associated eco-systems together with the taonga contained within them, for their own sake and for the benefit of future generations.

We want to be assured that there will be robust and accountable work practices by local government and regional authorities when working with mana whenua. Taking appropriate account of the Treaty will mean that iwi who exercise a customary right over the associated lands will be automatically involved in the response.

Within the terms of a kaupapa driven economic framework, the Maori Party believes that kaitiakitanga becomes viewed of value both in cultural, social and economic terms.

Within the terms of the Treaty, mana whenua will be involved in devising solutions to reduce the pressure on the environment and avoid long term costs to future generations.

In the case of this bill, the economic returns from the manifestation of kaitiakitanga are spelt out explicitly under the examples described as a strict liability offence.

To name just a few, the offence of freedom camping is described as taking place when the flora or fauna is interfered with, or damaged, or waste is deposited onto the area (other than into a waste receptacle.

But freedom camping is also considered an offence when individuals fail or refuse to leave conservation land when required to do so by an enforcement officer.

It is about preventing unnecessary damage and destruction.

Environmental protection becomes viewed as an inherent part of citizenship.

And where we see the kaupapa achieving an economic value in that the long term stewardship of the environment and eco-systems is most effectively provided by committed citizens, individually and collectively.

Tangata whenua, in carrying out our obligations and duties to protect our primary eco-systems are acting in ways which are necessary for future economic prosperity.

Of course, we all know the real reason this issue has suddenly appeared on the order paper is because of the Rugby World Cup, and the Government's anxiety to get our house in order before we prepare to welcome the crowds in.

I would rather, of course, that we were taking this action out of a genuine concern for the environment, but notwithstanding my cynicism we will be supporting this Bill, in the longer term interests of the environment, and the cultural integrity of our unique places.

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