A leading pro-camping group says Auckland Council’s proposed new freedom camping bylaw is confusing and will deny Kiwi families the opportunity to enjoy the region’s most desirable areas.
The New Zealand Motor Caravanning Association (NZMCA) says it could also open campers up to higher fines for any infringements, due to reserves being excluded from the legislation.
Council says this was done because it believes the Reserves Act 1977 would better protect enviromental and recreational values.
However, NZMCA national property and policy manager James Imlach says this separation will only cause confusion.
“The management regime will make it harder for Kiwis to understand where they can and cannot freedom camp. Most people won’t know whether a parcel of land falls under the new bylaw or Reserves Act,” he said.
“Kiwis trying to comply with the bylaw may inadvertently park in a reserve and risk waking up to an instant $800 fine. That is an unreasonable penalty, compared to the $200 fines issued under the Freedom Camping Act for the same offence.”
Meanwhile, Council has indicated that the new bylaw doesn’t necessarily mean freedom camping will not be able to occur at any reserves in future. At the moment, it is permitted at two Hibiscus Coast sites – Hatfields Beach and Gulf Harbour Reserve – but default camping prohibition under the Reserves Act will come into force, if and when the new bylaw comes into force next October.
Council’s policy team says a decision to allow camping on a reserve could be made as part of a new reserve or local parks management plan.
Hibiscus and Bays Local Board chair Gary Brown says compliance by campers is more of a local concern, both now and in the future. The neighbouring Rodney Local Board recently voted to fund two full-time wardens to enforce freedom camping rules, as well as other issues such as illegal littering and dumping.
“It’s an option we can look at, it’s just a matter of where the funding comes from,” he says. “Things are difficult with Covid, but we’re pretty open to finding a solution to this.”
Public feedback can be made on the proposed bylaw until December 5 at https://akhaveyoursay.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/freedom-camping-bylaw or by calling 09 301 0101.