Freedom camping rules don't please everyone

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 13:18 12/02/2014

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Moving to rules allowing freedom camping everywhere in Marlborough may not have been the best system for the region, a council committee suggests.

The Marlborough District Council's assets and services committee decided to set up a working group of staff and two councillors to review the first year of the council's bylaw under the Freedom Camping Act.

The act allows people to camp anywhere in the district except banned areas and enables the council to impose $200 instant fines on those who breach the rules. Previously, under the Local Government Act, freedom camping was banned everywhere in the district except for some approved areas. There was no power to impose fines.

When the new rules came into force, the council promised to review them in a year's time. Council reserves and amenities manager Rosie Bartlett said the system appeared to be working well, with only 17 infringement notices given out in the year.

However, 161 submissions from the public indicated changes could be made to improve the rules.

Many of the 10 submissions, 61 signatories to a petition, and 14 campground operators were opposed to the designated camping ground site at Collins Memorial Reserve in Koromiko.

Ms Bartlett said there was a lot of misunderstanding about freedom camping in the submissions. Some people said they were opposed to freedom camping, but supported camper vans with in-built toilets, which were also included in the council's definition of freedom camping.

The submissions against Koromiko as a camping site were aimed at protecting commercial interests, she said. This was understandable but was not something the council could do as the act did not allow it.

Councillor Jessica Bagge proposed allowing freedom camping within the Blenheim CBD, perhaps in Wynen St or by the i-Site, so that campers could spend money in the town.

Ms Bartlett said that was allowed in Nelson, which had a very welcoming policy for freedom campers.

Councillor Geoff Evans said most of the community would like to see freedom camping confined to defined areas. The review of council rules should look at going back to the previous system.

Councillor John Leggett said that while the system appeared to be working better than people thought, most would prefer a return to the previous system where freedom camping was prohibited except for designated areas.

Committee chairman Terry Sloan said the matter was complex. The committee approved setting up a working group of Mr Sloan and councillor David Oddie to report back to the committee and then to consult with the community about any changes.

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- The Marlborough Express

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