Consultation is under way on the Taupo District Council's newest draft freedom camping bylaw - its third attempt to come up with a set of rules on the practice.
Earlier this month the council was forced to throw its stricter draft bylaw in the bin and come up with a more permissive version more in line with the Freedom Camping Act.
Issues associated with freedom camping have continued to grow over the last few summers in the Taupo district as the number of tourists has risen alongside the number of New Zealanders owning motor homes, which has turn led to a rise in community complaints about access to recreation areas and concern about the impact on the environment and Lake Taupo.
The council has come up with several different versions of a freedom camping bylaw in the last year in an attempt to strike a balance between the intent of the legislation and the wishes of the community. However, the first two drafts met with the ire of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association which last month resolved to take the council to court if it went ahead.
The latest bylaw will allow freedom camping anywhere in the district in a self-contained vehicle for a maximum of three nights/four days. Non-self-contained freedom camping will only be allowed at Hipapatua (Reid's Farm) Reserve, Mangakino Recreation Reserve, Whakamaru Domain, and Whakamaru Recreation Reserve.
The clause banning freedom camping within 100m of the Nui-a-Tia boundary has been removed, with the council report saying most areas around the margins of Lake Taupo and the Waikato River are public reserve where freedom camping is prohibited by the Reserves Act, and the areas of road reserve that might become an issue in future could be managed using the council's traffic bylaw. Other measures such as signage, and using the litter bylaw to fine campers depositing waste, could be used.
Mayor David Trewavas said while the bylaw was still being consulted on, he felt the council had "got there in the end".
"We'll see what comes back but to members of the public we've tried our best to cover the field here in accordance with the law and trying to save the ratepayers a lot of court costs," he said.
Bruce Lochore, chief executive of the NZMCA, said he was happy with the new draft bylaw which was in line with the Freedom Camping Act "and that's all we ask for".
Mr Lochore denied that the association had bullied the council into doing what it wanted.
"We're actually saving them in some respects. Through the consultation process they had all sorts of emotional submissions almost demanding to stop freedom camping, they had members of the community demanding them to do something they couldn't do and asking them to do something outside their legal ability."
He says the organisation supports full self-containment for all its members and had driven raising the new standard for self-containment which specifies that a toilet has to be in the vehicle and usable even when the bed is made up.
In regard to concerns about the high numbers of freedom campers, whether in self-contained motorhomes or not, Mr Lochore said that allowing them to spread across the district was the best idea.
"In 2011 we had 42,000 members. We have 74,000 members now. The problem back then was trying to herd them into spaces. You're better off spreading them across the district so we don't get these ghettoes."
The National Government has said that if it is re-elected it would restrict all non-self-contained vehicles to areas that are within easy walking distance, (approximately 200m) of toilet facilities as well as allow councils and DOC to ban freedom camping from certain areas and issue instant fines to those who break the rules.
The council will consult on the draft bylaw until October 20, hear submissions on November 13, and could adopt a bylaw on November 16.