Freedom campers say ban is illegal

By John Cousins

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Freedom campers are set to become a much more common sight around Tauranga after the council was told that its near blanket ban on camping was illegal.

Members of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association turned out in force yesterday to compare the permissive 2011 Freedom of Camping Act with Tauranga's tight restrictions.

Fifty members filled the public gallery of the debating chamber to oppose council's bylaw on motor homes that have fully self-contained waste water systems.

The association's policy adviser Tony Gavin objected to the bylaw restricting motor homes to five sites around the city, with only three vehicles allowed to overnight at each location.

Mr Gavin said this approach was at odds with the Act.

The association gave a copy of its Chen Palmer legal opinion to the council and has volunteered to help draft a new bylaw that complied with the Act.

Meeting chairman David Stewart agreed the bylaw had been overtaken by the new legislation.

Mr Gavin said that instead of the council's bylaw saying where freedom camping was allowed, it should be setting out where it was not allowed; and the reasons for any ban had to be clearly defined and within the Act's provisions.

Mr Gavin said the council was able to differentiate between waste water certified vehicles and those that relied on the owners parking up near public toilets.

Submissions from other members highlighted the economic spin-offs for Tauranga in allowing more of the 24,000 association motor homes. Its Easter Rally at Baypark brought $3.5 million into the city.

Bruce Ware said the carparks on numerous reserves would be suitable for overnight parking. He suggested Taylor Reserve and Harrison Cut at Papamoa, Arataki Reserve, Soper Park, Moa Park and Blake Park at Mount Maunganui, Rotary Park at Maungatapu and Tye Park and Waipuna Park at Welcome Bay.

Mr Ware said the bylaw only allowed motor home owners one full day in Tauranga because most arrived later in the day.

Warwick Mackay said only a small proportion of freedom campers caused problems and the Act gave the council the teeth to penalise those who broke the rules.

Motor homes were currently banned from all public places and roads except for Memorial Park, Greerton Park, Fergusson Park, Sulphur Point's Marine Park and the Waikareao Estuary foreshore opposite the Judea industrial area.

The council will consider the submissions later this month.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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