Otago Daily Times
Some disagreement over freedom camping rules
A FINAL shape is crystallising for new freedom camping regulations in Clutha, but disagreement on some aspects may still lurk on the horizon.
Clutha District Council senior analyst Mike Goldsmith presented an update to the council on its proposed new freedom camping bylaw during its October 14 regulatory and policy meeting.
The update included suggested changes and additions to the previous draft bylaw, following verbal presentations by public submitters on September 3.
Among submitters was New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) national property and policy manager James Imlach, who said a proposed blanket ban on urban freedom camping went ‘‘too far towards prohibition’’.
Speaking via Zoom from Auckland on behalf of the association and its 93,000 members, Mr Imlach said NZMCA had sought a judicial review over Queenstown Lakes District Council’s similar blanket policy, but did not wish to arrive at this pass with Clutha.
During its recent meeting, Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said he took exception to the ‘‘insinuation’’ that NZMCA might take legal action unless Clutha reconsidered its proposals.
‘‘It would be very disappointing if NZMCA were to threaten litigious action to distort the process we’ve worked through carefully.
‘‘We’ve consulted, listened and learnt, and it’s time we had the gumption as a council to push on and bring this process to a resolution.’’
Speaking to the Otago Daily
last week, Mr Imlach said he, too, was disappointed by the apparent inability to reach a compromise.
‘‘I believe [Clutha] is failing to acknowledge the postCovid landscape around camping in New Zealand, and is basing its concerns on a situation [problematic freedom camping volumes] that simply won’t exist for the foreseeable future.
‘‘We are seeking a judicial review on Queenstown’s bylaw, but we’d prefer to conduct an amicable, constructive process with Clutha.’’
Mr Cadogan said the council had ‘‘carefully considered’’ the input of all submitters, including the NZMCA.
‘‘It’s always been our desire to work in with interest groups, but any council would become cautious when litigation is threatened. It’s just unnecessary.’’
Other elements of the redrafted bylaw were welcomed by stakeholders.
Surat Bay Lodge owner Esther Johnson, whose Newhaven accommodation adjoins a car park popular with freedom campers, said the proposed inclusion of the whole township as a restricted urban area was ‘‘excellent news’’.
‘‘There’s somebody here almost every night during summer.
‘‘We pay our rates like everybody else. Why should they stay for free when there are multiple commercial operators here?’’
The council will ratify the new bylaw at its meeting on December 10.