Napier City looks to ban freedom camping in non self-contained vehicles

By Victoria White -
5 comments
Under Napier's draft Freedom Camping Bylaw 2016, freedom camping areas could be restricted. Photo / Duncan Brown
Under Napier's draft Freedom Camping Bylaw 2016, freedom camping areas could be restricted. Photo / Duncan Brown

Freedom camping in non self-contained vehicles could be banned across Napier.

This was one suggestion Napier City councillors made yesterday while hearing submissions on the Freedom Camping Bylaw 2016.

Freedom camping has raised concerns in Napier since the associated act was passed in 2011, with a Napier City Council bylaw in 2014, and amendment in 2015, attempts to reduce these by identifying five designated freedom camping areas.

Yesterday's extraordinary council meeting, held in the MTG Century Theatre, was part of the consultation process for a new bylaw, which would revoke the 2014 bylaw.

Despite a number of the 197 submissions supporting a recommendation to ban freedom camping at Westshore, yesterday councillors recommended this be restricted to allow four self-contained vehicles in clearly marked areas off Domain Rd, Bay View.

McLean Park would be added to the list of prohibited sites.

There was concern that closing sites would put pressure on remaining spots, so councillors recommended restricting parking at Perfume Point, Ahuriri to seven self-contained vehicles.

The bylaw would be considered at the inaugural council meeting on December 14.

Other suggestions were floated, with the main concerns raised by submitters being access to beachfront areas, and safety, with others speaking of antisocial behaviour, and littering by tourists.

Based on these, a suggestion from councillor Annette Brosnan to ban all freedom camping in non self-contained vehicles was approved by the majority of other councillors.

As this was outside the scope of the bylaw review, council would be seeking legal advice to see if a total ban was possible before taking any further action.

During the process enforcement of freedom camping rules had been a major issue identified, so councillor Kirsten Wise noted banning non self-contained vehicles would make policing easier.

As part of the review, staff would be looking to increase enforcement.

Another suggestion was the temporary closure of the foreshore beach reserve off State Highway 2. Council were looking at the safety of this spot with the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Yesterday Te Awa Ave resident Paul Laursen spoke of his concerns for the area, opposite his home.

"There have been numerous near misses in the past year, and we do not want to see any deaths right outside our house," he said.

Councillor Richard McGrath said while yesterday's recommendations would limit the number of available freedom camping spots in beachfront areas there were a still a large number of parks elsewhere in Napier.

The bylaw statement of proposal stated council recognised the benefits of Napier being a popular destination on "the freedom camping circuit", but wanted to ensure freedom camping had the least possible impact on residents, the environment, and public access to coastal areas.

Other submitters - including Westshore and Ahuriri residents, and representatives from the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) - echoed this need for balance.

NZMCA representatives and some residents spoke of the benefits brought to Napier by freedom campers, and suggested alternatives to prohibiting areas.

Westshore residents raised concerns freedom camping at restricted sites had forced out day trippers and recreational users of Westshore Beach Reserve, and that campervans and associated camping equipment were unsightly in an area high in amenity values.

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