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Freedom camping problem needs money to fix

April 17th, 2015
[by David Armstrong]

The vexed, seemingly endless issue of freedom camping was discussed again at Tuesday's Community Board meeting, with the focus shifting to money for enforcement of by-laws.

A petition was read to the board signed by a large number of Motueka residents, particularly those living in Trewavas Street and near the Beach Reserve where camping seems uncontrolled.

This was followed by strongly worded comments by board members, particularly Cliff Satherley and Cr Peter Canton, that this was just a repeat of the same debate for and against the practice of largely unregulated freedom camping in non-compliant vehicles.

Clearly most or the board had had enough of getting nowhere after years of inability to take effective action. Non-compliance was the single main issue, Peter said, and the campers are savvy enough to move when asked but return later.

There was simply not enough money from TDC to pay enforcement officers. Cliff said that it was time to fix it once and for all, and if it was a matter of money then he would be happy to see it spent on this problem rather than some other council projects.

Richard Horrell said council needed to look particularly at Motueka's unique situation - a "double whammy" which combines backpacking tourists with itinerant orchard workers finding cheap places to stay.

"If money for enforcement is the issue, then TDC must make it a priority," he said.

Attending the meeting, Council's CEO Lindsay McKenzie acknowledged the problem and said that councils around the country had been sold a pup when the freedom camping laws were changed for the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Before then you could only freedom camp where it was allowed; now it is the reverse - you can freedom camp anywhere unless it is banned.

Lindsay agreed that in the end it came down to the council budget to pay enforcement officers, and helpfully suggested that the community board urge council to raise the priority of by-law enforcement by putting more in the budget.

He said council were workshopping the issue in four weeks and urged community board members to attend the workshop and advocate for such a change.


Comment by Paul Mosley:
[Posted 19 April 2015]

It seems that the straight-forward, cost-effective way to deal with enforcement of freedom camping at Motueka Beach Reserve is to ban it entirely at that location, then there is no argument (and my experience is that many freedom campers do argue, since so many have such a sense of entitlement).

Queenstown-Lakes District Council has a clearly enunciated and implemented policy that freedom camping is not permitted in urban areas - as Motueka Beach Reserve unquestionably is. QLDC's policy, and documents such as a pamphlet for visitors on freedom camping, are readily available on QLDC's website, and it would be a good idea if TDC and the Community Board informed themselves of how QLDC is dealing with the issue.

In both QLDC's area and in the Motueka area there are plenty of alternatives for campers, and there is no justification for them to expect the provision of free (i.e. at the expense of ratepayers) camping in a prime location like Beach Reserve. It would be nice to see TDC coming to grips, on behalf of its ratepayers, with an issue that QLDC seems to have no difficulty in dealing with in an effective manner.

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