Council drafts rules around freedom camping

The Hurunui District Council is looking to clamp down on campers who avoid designated camping grounds and leave roadsides in a mess.

A draft ‘freedom camping bylaw’ has just been released for consultation which, if adopted, would ban basic backpacker vans from camping in public places, and limit to two nights only, stopovers for vans with on-board toilets.

Environmental Services Manager, Judith Batchelor, says like many holiday areas the Hurunui District has been experiencing problems with ‘sleepover vans’ camping in public areas, and leaving behind personal and domestic waste.

“While we recognise for some visitors, overnight camping is their preferred accommodation, it’s a choice that comes with potential adverse environmental effects and is not only dangerous for the campers overnighting in isolated spots, but what they’re leaving behind is also potentially hazardous to the health of the community in which they’re bunking.”

The council has previously relied on an existing Freedom Camping Policy drawn up under the ’Public Places Bylaw’ to control freedom camping but has now been advised it could have problems enforcing it.

While there is other legislation, including the Litter Act, which enables the council to prosecute some of the ‘nuisances associated with freedom camping’, Judith Batchelor says it is clear a bylaw specific to the problem is the only appropriate way of dealing with the issue.

“There would still be conditions under which freedom camping could take place, so we wouldn’t be stamping it out completely. What we want to do is control how and when it happens and be able to properly enforce the rules if they are broken.”

If adopted the bylaw would:

• prohibit freedom camping at: Motunau Beach, Hurunui River mouth, the lay-by at the intersection of State Highway 1 and the Leader Road, St Annes Lagoon, Cheviot Hills Domain, Manuka Bay and Port Robinson (from the intersection of Cathedral and Port Robinson Roads) and the Hanmer Basin Management Areas, excluding the Hanmer River Reserve; and

• all areas where ‘no camping’ signs are displayed;

• any council controlled public area in any urban area, or any area within 500 metres of any accommodation facility (with the exception of Amuri Avenue carpark, Hanmer Springs and the designated area at the Rotherham Reserve.); and

• any other area where freedom camping may be prohibited by other legislation.

Anyone who breached the bylaw would be liable to a fine of up to 20 thousand dollars.

Vehicles fitted with a minimum three-day capacity toilet and greywater storage facility would be able to freedom camp outside of the prohibited areas, but for no longer than two nights in any calendar month at any single location.

The draft bylaw would also require toilet waste and greywater and refuse to be appropriately disposed of at a council approved dump point and collection facility. Any area used for freedom camping would have to be left in a clean and tidy state by any visitors, who would also have to move on if asked to do so by an authorised officer.

Judith Batchelor says implementing the bylaw, if adopted, would require signage and regular patrols by warranted officers.

“Though it would be our hope that any compliance would be proactive rather than reactive, where potential freedom campers would be directed to an appropriate camping ground before establishing a campsite in a no-go zone.”

The council already promotes the ‘national freedom camping principles’ on its website and through visitor information centres, to raise awareness of the issue.

The Hurunui District Council is also supporting a proposed law change that would allow local authorities, to issue instant fines to offenders. The Department of Internal Affairs will be introducing the necessary regulation, which it’s hoped will be in place in time for the Rugby World Cup this year.

The summary of information, statement of proposal and draft ‘Freedom Camping Bylaw‘ are available for viewing at any council service centre or library or on our website.

Submissions are invited until 5pm 4 March 2011.

For further information contact:

Judith Batchelor

Environmental Services Manager

Hurunui District Council

03 314 0102