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NZMCA disappointed in TCDC’s approach to freedom camping

20 December 2011

NZMCA disappointed in TCDC’s latest approach to freedom camping

The New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) is disappointed with the Thames-Coromandel District Council’s (TCDC) latest approach to managing freedom camping.

TCDC’s bylaw, created under the Freedom Camping Act 2011, restricts freedom camping to just six individual car parks and four of these are off limits for most of summer, this despite the majority of local submissions in support of responsible freedom camping.

The remainder of the peninsula is prohibited and responsible freedom campers could receive an instant $200 fine for nothing other than parking overnight in a public area outside of the six permitted car parks.

“In a district that relies on tourism and purports to welcome all responsible campers, for Council to pass a very restrictive bylaw that has the substantive effect of a blanket ban is a disappointment to the Association’s 43,000 members”, says NZMCA President Bruce Stanger.

The Association advocates responsible freedom camping in certified self contained vehicles and is an original member of the Responsible Freedom Camping Forum – along with TCDC. The forum members unanimously supported the new legislation as a tool to deter the minority of irresponsible freedom campers spoiling our environment.

The Local Government and Environment Select Committee emphasised that the intent of the new legislation was to permit freedom camping unless specifically restricted or prohibited. They added a specific clause denying local authorities the power to ban freedom camping throughout their boundaries, instead requiring reasonable and proportionate restrictions at each area.

“As the Bill was rushed through Parliament the public were reassured several times by Minister’s and their departments that the new legislation would not result in unreasonable, heavy handed bylaws that would unfairly punish responsible campers. TCDC’s approach appears unreasonable and disproportionate to the perceived problems”, says NZMCA Resource Management Coordinator, James Imlach.

The Association’s submission commended TCDC for proposing a bylaw that recognized certified self containment. Legal advice obtained from the country’s foremost public law firm, Chen Palmer, identified some fundamental flaws that would invalidate the draft bylaw.

“We wanted to ensure the first bylaw created under the Freedom Camping Act was consistent with the intent of the legislation that the public were led to believe. This does not appear to be the case in the approach promulgated by TCDC”, says Mr. Imlach.

The Association will now consult with their advisors and directors over the Christmas break on what steps should be taken. Unfortunately options may include seeking a judicial review.

“All the Association wants is to protect New Zealanders’ right to explore the country at leisure and if so desire freedom camp responsibly. If the public continues to allow local authorities to make decisions inconsistent with the intent of legislation then we will soon lose these rights”, says Mr. Stanger.

ENDS

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