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Freedom camping debated again by community board

October 29th, 2015
[by David Armstrong]

The thorny issue of freedom camping at Beach Reserve got members steamed up once again at the Motueka Community Board meeting on Tuesday.

An earlier request by the board to Council for an update on progress brought a written reply that a majority of Tasman District Councillors at a workshop had "agreed with the existing approach being taken by staff, and indicated that no additional resources should be allocated to police the area".

It said Council had been in touch with the police who indicated that they have had no incidents reported to them in the area.

Most of the community board members expressed dismay with this response, with Ward Councillor Peter Canton saying he was "amazed and grumpy about Council doing nothing".

David Ogilvie said he knew of incidents where people had called the police, so he wondered why these were being ignored in the statistics.

Councillor Barry Dowler said that freedom camping should be totally banned throughout the area, and other board members said that this issue would keep coming up over and over, as it has for years, unless something is done.

At present $6,000 is allocated to bylaw compliance (payment for the time of a compliance officer), but this was not enough to effectively police the bylaw.

Board members said this should be increased to at least $16,000 to ensure that non-compliant campers were moved on and did not come back as soon as the officer left the scene.

A Council officer attending the meeting, Mike Drummond, said he believed that $16,000 had been set aside for the current year, obtained from Council's operating surplus for the year, and that the board should ask Council to keep this sum in all future budgets.

He also said that the Reserve Management Plan for Motueka Beach Reserve will be reviewed in 2016 as part of Council's review of the Freedom Camping Bylaw, and Motueka locals will be allowed to submit on that plan and the new bylaw.

Discretionary fund allocations
The community board was in a generous mood when it came to grant applications for its community discretionary funds, which are considered quarterly. A total of $3,000 was approved for six organisations and projects, two of them from the special Youth Development Fund.

Project De-Vine was granted $500 to begin the removal of old man's beard and passion vines from the Riwaka Valley, continuing the successful work the group has been doing on the Golden Bay side of Takaka Hill. The money will be used to build a team of volunteers and educate them on the removal of these pests.

Motueka Creative Spaces was granted $500 to refurbish, decorate and tune a donated piano that will be wheeled around the central business district and be available for anyone to play outside several cafes.

Whenua Iti Outdoors received $500 to pay for two places for disadvantaged young people to go on a Leadership Journey programme.

Motueka District Museum Trust also received $500 to help pay for the mounting of an exhibition early next year on the history of apples in our district, including the marketing and an associated booklet.

Kiyosato Exchange was granted $500 to help pay for the travel and insurance of an exchange student to spend a year in our sister city in Japan next year.

Motueka Arts Council successfully applied for $500 to help pay for a storage shed which will allow it to store public art materials which currently are scattered around private homes of members.

Finally, Motueka and District Historical Association also received $500 to help produce a book showing a photographic history of Motueka Wharf, ready for the centennial celebrations of the wharf early next year.


Comment by Paul Mosley:
[Posted 1st November 2015]

We [Keep Motueka Beautiful] just received the following note in the voluntary donations box at Beach Reserve: "Do you really think somebody would pay to stay here? Please look at the place at night! NOT a SAFE place to be".

A friend of ours who recently bought a campervan has been advised against over-nighting there, because of the risk of disturbance and worse by others. I regularly see people camping down there that, to be honest, I would be wary about parking next to.

I cannot understand the determination of the Council - our elected representatives, believe it or not - to keep Beach Reserve open for so-called freedom camping, when so many locals have had enough of it. There is no question that campervans limit the use of the locality by local ratepayers, particularly in the vicinity of barbecue, when they park for a day or three in the choicest spots and hinder everybody else's access. Most make no contribution (about 1 in 20 make a donation), they just take.

But when it comes to public safety, something should be done, and the only way is a complete ban on freedom camping at Beach Reserve. It's perfectly possible to do so, as Queenstown-Lakes DC, a rather more go-ahead and responsive council than we have, has shown.

When so many other places in Tasman have "no overnight camping" signs, it mystifies me why an urban park like Beach Reserve is regarded by the council as an appropriate place for camping.

Comment by Gail Jewell:
[Posted 1st November 2015]

Freedom camping is a huge problem for the council to say that there have been no police incidents is incorrect. I advise people who are making a complaint to ask for the job number so a record can be kept, the same when complaining to the council ask them to email you the compliant number then there is not getting out of it and denying any problems.

I film freedom campers daily and send an email to the Mayor, CEO and the local councillors. There is a real revenue stream that could cover any officer required to police the issue with infringement notices that could be issued to illegal campers. I.e. Last week I counted 9 illegal vehicles at the Motueka Beach Reserve, yet the council still do nothing. It is a disgrace to say the least.

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