No camping policy yet

The Kaikoura District Council will not have a freedom camping policy in place for this summer, despite a sub-committee having been in place for the past seven months to look at the issue.

A total of 313 surveys were received when the council consulted with the community earlier in the year, which was considered a good response, yet the sub-committee has met only twice since then.

Resulting from the survey was a council decision that acceptable freedom camping sites would be investigated, and subsequent notification of a bylaw would be considered.

The sub-committee has ratified its role will be to address environmental problems, not to consider commercial issues associated with freedom camping. No areas have been identified yet as being suitable for camping, or adversely suitable for prohibition and because of the fact that much of the land in the Kaikoura district is administered by authorities other than the district council, the committee will also need to look into means of controlling freedom camping in those areas.

Initial conversations with one land agency, the Department of Conservation (DOC), indicated it would be happy to work with the council on whatever it deemed appropriate. However district planner and member of the sub-committee Rachel Vaughan said DOC would have its own national process to go though under the act therefore it would not be as easy as it seemed to get a collaborative approach worked out.

Other agencies include KiwiRail, Environment Canterbury (ECan), Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA).

Mrs Vaughan said in fact the council was in a worse position since the Freedom Camping Act was introduced in August 2011 because campers could not now be moved on without a bylaw. Until the act came in, campers could be moved on under the Litter Act.

Mayor Winston Gray is also on the sub-committee and said the council had a real issue to get something workable with so many authorities being involved. Although this is now the second summer season with nothing in place to deter freedom camping or even to police it and move people on from certain areas, it will now be next summer before a policy is in place, he said.

Meanwhile, the Marlborough District Council has approved new freedom camping rules, which exclude freedom camping in the urban areas of Blenheim, Picton, Havelock, Seddon and Renwick.

Councillor Trevor Hook said the new policy meant the council could take enforcement action against offenders, which it had not been able to do before.

Freedom camping had been banned throughout the district but there were no enforcement powers except to tell people to move on.

The new bylaw has been introduced because of a law change that lets councils approve freedom camping except in designated areas. People who breach the bylaw can be fined $200.

A report by council staff said everyone was aware there were freedom campers within the district and this would continue.

"What council needs to focus on is what is possible with the available resources to best manage the issues of freedom camping and its effect on the environment," the report says.

The council's message would continue: "Camp in commercial campgrounds, DOC camps, and other designated sites."

The council will still encourage residents to let them know when they see camper-vans parked in prohibited areas and will continue to collate this information to give a clear indication of where the problems are.

"If areas not included in the prohibited areas are proving problematic, than a bylaw review will be initiated," the report says.

Even in the areas where freedom camping is allowed, there are restrictions.

People must camp in self-contained vehicles, unless a public toilet is provided at the site; no more than two consecutive nights at the site; no fires can be lit; public access cannot be restricted; and all waste is disposed of appropriately.

Kaikoura Star