Campers may get more freedom

By John Cousins


Rules could be loosened to allow freedom campers a greater choice of where they can legally park up overnight in Tauranga.

Instead of restricting self-contained motor homes to five reserves, the council has ordered an investigation that would put the emphasis on naming sites where freedom camping was not allowed.

Support for a more permissive approach was led by Councillor Larry Baldock at yesterday's meeting of the council.

Mount Maunganui councillors Wayne Moultrie and David Stewart sought to keep the status quo until the outcome was known of the legal challenge taken by the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association against Westland District Council's interpretation of the Freedom Camping Act.

Cr Moultrie said they needed to take a deep breath and maintain a "holding pattern" until the courts had ruled on the challenge.

However, he could only muster two supporters, leaving Cr Baldock free to pursue his goal of lifting the restrictions on where self-contained motor homes were allowed to park.

Councillor Murray Guy backed the exceptions approach in which staff will recommend sites where freedom camping should be restricted or prohibited.

He said the current bylaw, which allowed a total of 15 motor homes free parking overnight, was an "absolute embarrassment".

In one of his recent morning drives to check out the issue, he found six freedom campers at the Sulphur Point Marine Park next to the boat ramps. One of the camper vans held three sisters from Welcome Bay.

"They did not leave any mess and made an excellent breakfast. The public has a right to use public amenities."

Councillor Bill Grainger said opening Maungatapu's Rotary Park to motor homes would help curb night-time activities which spurred a recent public meeting of nearly 60 concerned residents.

Freedom camping is currently restricted to Greerton Park, Fergusson Park, Marine Park, Memorial Park and the Waikareao Foreshore Reserve at Judea.

Seventy-two complaints were received last year about freedom campers in Tauranga, most of them sparked by litter. Environmental services manager Peter Frawley said it was very time-consuming and difficult to prosecute someone for littering, unless they were caught in the act.

Councillor Terry Molloy struggled with the definitions, saying people in $200,000 self-contained motor homes were not freedom campers. Freedom campers were in little vans without toilets or showers.

The council agreed to take freedom camping out of the 2005 Street Use and Public Places Bylaw in order to avoid any more delays to a review process which had lasted more than two years. Motor homes will be controlled by a separate bylaw.


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