NZMCA call to court action on councils approach to freedom camping bylaws
Wings member and Champagne Lady DeBretts Taupo
The New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) say they had no option other than to initiate a Judicial Review legal challenge to the Thames-Coromandel District Council’s freedom camping bylaws.
The NZMCA’s legal counsel, Chen Palmer sought a Judicial Review of the legality of Thames-Coromandel District Council’s freedom camping related by-laws.
The two-day Judicial Review is set to be heard at the Hamilton High Court on April 15 and 16.
NZMCA President Bruce Stanger urges as many NZMCA members as possible to attend the review.
“This hearing is a vital aspect of our long battle to protect the rights of New Zealanders to freedom camp responsibly,” he said. “On behalf of our members, the Board has committed considerable resources to ensuring that councils’ by-laws comply with the spirit and intent of the Freedom Camping Act 2011.”
NZMCA sign of responsible campers
For the most part, local authorities have responded positively to this approach and Bruce Stanger says the NZMCA has built strong relationships with many councils throughout NZ in respect to not only their freedom camping by-laws but also in the uptake of the NZMCA's Motorhome Friendly Scheme.
“Thames-Coromandel District Council, however, has been one of the very few exceptions and eventually left us no option but to initiate this Judicial Review", Bruce Stanger said.
The Thames-Coromandel District Council in the North Island of New Zealand is seated in the town of Thames. It is located in the region around the Firth of Thames and Coromandel Peninsula, to the southeast of Auckland.
The Waikato Times reports that - TCDC Mayor Glenn Leach said the NZMCA should be working with the council, not against it. "A lot of money is being spent going to court when they know we're already going down the track of reviewing the bylaw; they are taking us to court on a bylaw that is being replaced," Leach said.
TCDC is developing a new freedom camping bylaw in an attempt to thwart the negative environmental effects of freedom camping.
Motorhome at Christchurch show.
Feedback from the Council Summer Bylaws Campaign - Freedom Camping stated issues around freedom campers included rubbish, human waste, fire risk and anti-social behaviour.
Leach said he didn't want the Coromandel Peninsula to be turned into a septic tank for an indulgent few. TCDC's current bylaw allows freedom camping in a self-contained vehicle on any council-controlled public land - except in areas where the council specifically prohibits freedom camping.
Freedom campers cannot stay longer than one night and non-self-contained freedom campers are advised to stay in commercial campgrounds, holiday parks and Department of Conservation campgrounds.
Leach said the council had feedback from residents asking why they didn't allow non-self-contained freedom campers to simply park by a public bathroom. "I use the example that if you feed one seagull, 50 [seagulls] will come and expect to be fed."
He said he believed those areas would be inundated with campers, The Waikato Times report said.
In a Facebook posting on Jan 8 NZMCA says: Shocking Fact: Out of a combined 65 free parking
sites in the Thames/Coromandel & Central Bay of Plenty areas, only ONE site allows pets. If you
happen to have a pet with you, you are barred from parking overnight.
Our Paradise suits its owners
The Hauraki Herald reports that in August 2011 the New Zealand Government introduced new freedom camping legislation that allows freedom camping in all areas – except where a council specifically prohibits freedom camping.
According to a TCDC press release, a council can also choose to allow freedom camping in some areas – so long as campers comply with a set of conditions.
The legislation means that freedom camping is permitted in all local council areas unless a council prohibits or restricts it in specific places.