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Board wants halt to camping at Beach Reserve

March 13th, 2013
[by David Armstrong]

The community board has asked council to close the camping area of Beach Reserve, and to report on options to solve the ongoing problems caused by non-complying freedom campers using and abusing the area.

A deputation of people living near the Beach Reserve, which sits beside and south of the saltwater baths car park, spoke passionately during the public forum of the Motueka Community Board's meeting yesterday about the noise and litter problems now endemic at the reserve.

They produced photos and results of a two-week survey showing that about three-quarters of all vans camping in the reserve are not self-contained and therefore are illegally using the area, with many staying for much longer than the maximum two-night allowance for vehicles with their own toilets and water.

They said drinking and noisy parties, nudity and people using gardens of private properties as toilets is becoming unbearable for residents, and insisted that the authorities clamp down on it and enforce the law.

A report on these problems was also presented by board member Cliff Satherley, and TDC's Environmental Health Co-ordinator Graham Caradus was invited to put council's perspective.

Graham said that with the Freedom Camping law introduced last year, "council no longer has the coercive powers that it did before, when they could write infringement notices on the spot". Now prosecution through the courts is "a long and expensive process".

He said that the only tool council now has for immediate effect is to stop noisy activities and the consumption of liquor; otherwise there is no obvious solution, given that policing is so difficult and offending campers can simply wait until the compliance officer leaves the area and then return.

Cliff said what was needed was an immediate chaining off of the area to stop all vehicles entering, and then getting council to find a solution. It was pointed out that this cannot legally be done without an official change being made to the reserve's management plan by council's Community Services department.

Complicating the matter, Councillor Trevor Norris, who lives near the reserve and who spoke at the discussion, said that if money is being collected by volunteers from any campers, that meant the reserve would be considered a camping area with different rules than those for a council reserve.

Chairman David Ogilvie said that donations - not camping fees - had been collected from campers who appreciated the upkeep of the area by Keep Motueka Beautiful volunteers, but in order to minimise this complication all KMB signs asking for donations had recently been removed.

In the end the board agreed to immediately ask TDC's Community Services manager to close the camping area of Beach Reserve, and to request a report from council on the options for the future of camping at the reserve.


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