New Freedom Camping Bylaw - Thames Coromandel District.
The Reserves Act 1977 prohibits freedom camping in reserves in New Zealand. However, in anticipation of the Rugby World Cup being held in New Zealand in 2011, the government enacted the hastily drafted Freedom Camping Act 2011 which sought to enable tourists and New Zealanders alike to tour around the country following the games and stopping overnight enroute to the next match destination in their motor homes, caravans and buses.
Under the Freedom Camping Act 2011, a local authority may make a bylaw under the Act only if it is satisfied that -
(a) the bylaw is necessary for one or more of the following purposes:
(i) to protect the area, (ii) to protect the health and safety of people who may visit the area: (iii) to protect access to the area; and
b) the bylaw is the most appropriate and proportionate way of addressing the perceived problem in relation to that area; and
(c) the bylaw is not inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
Revision and Delay: In response to that Act, Thames Coromandel District Council placed a blanket ban on freedom camping in the district. This resulted in the New Zealand Motor and Caravan Association taking them to court. The TCDC Freedom Camping Bylaw was, consequently, revised coming into effect in 2014 and included some designated freedom camping sites in reserve areas. That 2014 Bylaw lapsed during 2019 due to the interruptions experienced by TCDC during the Covid-19 lockdown period and there were ongoing interruptions to the work council staff were able to do while working on and preparing the proposed new freedom camping bylaw.
There are three assessment criteria used to arrive at a “restricted” or “prohibited” status for reserve areas, namely, the area, health and safety and access which are “scored” to arrive at a “restricted” or “prohibited” status for freedom camping in reserves.
Over 200 submissions were received by TCDC to the new proposed Freedom Camping Bylaw, one quarter of which related to seeking to have freedom camping “prohibited” at all of the Cooks Beach reserve area. The submissions referred to the low “scores” and provided detailed information, which council staff had not had the opportunity to assess, relating to the area, the health and safety and the access issues as follows:-
The Submission (extract):
“We submit that the entire Cooks Beach Reserve at 2A Riverview Road be included as an area where freedom camping is prohibited. In particular, the reserves referred to as Cooks Beach Central and Purangi Reserve at 2A River View Road in the settlement of Cooks Beach, have been assessed as having “scores” which are too low and do not accurately reflect what is required to ensure the protection of the area, the protection of the health and safety of the people who may visit the area and the protection of access to the area. These reserve areas need to be included as an area where freedom camping is prohibited.
There are inconsistencies and omissions of important site information in the assessments of the Cooks Beach Central and the Purangi Reserve areas at the sensitive coastal settlement of Cooks Beach, compared with assessments of Marine Parade Reserve at the same sensitive Cooks Beach coastal reserve and similar coastal areas in settlements in close proximity to Cooks Beach. This has resulted in incorrect designation recommendations by Council officers for these two sites. The correct assessment “scores” for the Cooks Beach Central and Purangi Reserve should be significantly higher at a score of 9 minimum, giving a correct designation of “prohibited” for freedom camping at Cooks Beach Central and Purangi Reserve.”
The submission also quoted TCDC’s Comprehensive Report: Options for the Control of Freedom Camping, dated 8 February, 2022, discussing the problems caused by freedom camping, including health issues and environmental pollution.
A unanimous decision: Councillors and staff listened to and acknowledged the information presented and the local knowledge and experience provided which enabled them to arrive at a fully informed opinion. At the Council meeting Thursday, 29 September, 2022, the Mayor Sandra Goudie and all other Councillors present at the meeting unanimously voted in support of the submissions to prohibit freedom camping in the reserve areas at Cooks Beach. Freedom Camping at Cooks Beach Reserve will be prohibited. In the end, the cause of the common good won and everyone came around to the same decision in light of the information presented and the store of local knowledge and experience provided.
The many issues regarding “Freedom Camping” in the very popular holiday destination of the Coromandel Peninsula, and how to address them, remain and will continue to require ongoing monitoring of effects and enforcement to ensure those effects are minimised.
However, for Cooks Beach, a win which will come into effect in early December, 2022.