Council may relax rules on freedom camping

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 05/06/2013
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Tough rules which prevented freedom camping in many areas of Nelson city may soon be relaxed.

The city council agreed yesterday to a preference for using existing rules and regulations available to it to manage freedom camping in the city instead of creating a new bylaw under the 2011 Freedom Camping Act. It plans to revoke its current camping bylaw, subject to public consultation.

The move has been hailed by the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, whose Nelson spokesman, Neville Baldwin, described yesterday as a welcome return to the situation which existed previously, when campervan travellers felt welcome in Nelson.

In 2011 the council tightened the rules around freedom camping to address the problem created by some campers soiling public parks and spaces. Self-contained vehicles had to use existing campgrounds and free sites in private car parks around the city available to New Zealand Motor Caravan Association members. Vehicles without self-contained toilet facilities were encouraged to go to the council- owned Maitai Valley Motor Camp.

A few months later the Government passed the Freedom Camping Act, which meant councils could not impose a blanket ban on freedom camping in all areas.

It made temporary provision for instant fines to be issued to campers breaking the rules, and forced a review of Nelson's bylaw to make it comply with the new act.

The council's ability to make a decision on a revised bylaw has been drawn out and fraught with challenges, including the puzzle of vagrant Lewis Stanton (aka Hone Ma Heke) and his law-breaking habits of setting up camp with his horse Barney on council land.

The council said that with respect to Mr Stanton's continued camping in and around Nelson, a follow-up report on the matter will be brought to the council in the new financial year.

This report will take into account the implications of yesterday's decision by the council, which Mayor Aldo Miccio said if adopted, would give the council or authorities such as the police the legislative ability to enforce the act, as opposed to a simple council bylaw, with particular reference to there being no camping in council reserves.

Councillor Mike Ward was heartened by the move which would serve to welcome people to Nelson, but it delighted him more that the decision was about not making another rule.

Councillor Kate Fulton, chairwoman of the councillor working party set up to discuss a way forward, said they would like to develop a situation where people were "very tolerant" of campers, and that the nature of their camping was of a high standard.

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"Philosophically, we like people coming to the region.

"We don't want their waste, but we want people to come here," Ms Fulton said.

- The Nelson Mail

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