Editorial: Enforce rules, or ditch them

CLAIRE ALLISON
Last updated 05:00 06/01/2014

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There is a saying that people trot out when they know they are doing something wrong.

"Rules are made to be broken".

But there is usually an unspoken qualifier to that. There is really no point breaking rules if you know you're going to get caught, and face some form of consequence - censure, a conviction, or a financial penalty.

So, the freedom campers who are parking up on Caroline Bay and ignoring limits on the number allowed there at any one time, or the number of nights each is allowed to stay, clearly know there's little - if any - chance they will be called to account.

The car park off Marine Parade has a 10-vehicle limit. We reported that on Friday, there were nearly 20 vans in that area, and a camping ground operator said he'd seen up to 35 in previous years.

Timaru, like most towns, doesn't want a reputation of being unfriendly to freedom campers.

If they don't stop here, they will stop elsewhere, spending their money in other towns, spreading the news about what a great places those other towns are.

But the Timaru District Council, on setting those limits, was trying to find a balance - encouraging visitors to the district, but without undermining the commercial holiday parks, who pay their rates and clearly contribute to the community's economic wellbeing.

The freedom camping sites shouldn't be competing with holiday parks; they're aimed at a different market, the campers who are travelling around, parking up for a night or two, then moving on.

They're fully self-contained, and make little impact on the community they're visiting - that's the trade-off for staying in a town for free.

There is no point having rules if they are not enforced. As motorists, most of us would admit the reason we stick to the speed limit is not so much because it's safer, but because we don't want a lecture and a speeding ticket.

The rules in place at sites where freedom camping is allowed are designed to be self-policed. Who, other than the campers involved, could say which were the first 10 vehicles to park up at the Marine Parade site, or how long a van had been parked up?

Clearly that's not working. If there is good reason for the rules, they need to be enforced. If not, then the council is paying lip service only to limiting freedom camping, and the rules aren't worth having.

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