Council off to court to defend camping policy

KELSEY WILKIE
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2014

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New Zealand Motor Caravan Association is fighting back against what it calls unfair freedom camping rules on the Coromandel and will have its day in court next week.

In December the NZMCA lodged legal proceedings challenging Thames-Coromandel District Council's process for setting up its current Freedom Camping Bylaw.

NZMCA chief executive Bruce Lochore said the association considered the TCDC freedom camping bylaw illegal and had proceeded with a judicial review which will take place in Hamilton on Tuesday and Wednesday. TCDC Mayor Glenn Leach said the NZMCA should be working with the council, not against it.

"A lot of money is being spent going to court when they know we're already going down the track of reviewing the bylaw; they are taking us to court on a bylaw that is being replaced," said Leach.

TCDC is developing a new freedom camping bylaw in an attempt to thwart the negative environmental effects of freedom camping.

Feedback from the Council Summer Bylaws Campaign - Freedom Camping stated issues around freedom campers included rubbish, human waste, fire risk and anti-social behaviour.

Leach said he didn't want the Coromandel Peninsula to be turned into a septic tank for an indulgent few.

TCDC's current bylaw allows freedom camping in a self-contained vehicle on any council-controlled public land - except in areas where the council specifically prohibits freedom camping.

Freedom campers cannot stay longer than one night and non-self-contained freedom campers are advised to stay in commercial campgrounds, holiday parks and Department of Conservation campgrounds.

Leach said the council had feedback from residents asking why they didn't allow non-self-contained freedom campers to simply park by a public bathroom. "I use the example that if you feed one seagull, 50 [seagulls] will come and expect to be fed."

He said he believed those areas would be inundated with campers.

But Lochore said NZMCA had been talking with the council for more than two years with no results. "You can only talk for so long before you have to back up what you're saying."

Lochore said they were hoping the judicial review would determine that the bylaw was illegal and the council would be forced to form a legal bylaw that was proportionate.

The judicial review will be heard at the High Court in Hamilton on April 16.

It was lodged after council began work developing a new bylaw.

The new freedom camping bylaw will go out for formal public consultation in June and a new bylaw should be adopted by August in time for the 2014-15 summer.

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- Waikato Times

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