The New Zealand Motor Caravan Association has urged the Taupo District Council to start over on its proposed freedom camping bylaw, saying it will "bend over backwards" to avoid a legal confrontation but go to court if necessary.
That's placed the Taupo District Council in the difficult position of having to balance the permissive Freedom Camping Act 2011 with the community's requests to protect Lake Taupo with a ban on lakeshore freedom camping.
The council's latest draft bylaw included a 100m buffer zone around the edge of Lake Taupo to the control gates where freedom camping would not be allowed. That has not pleased the NZMCA, which thought that, except for around the central business area, motorhomers should be allowed to camp on the lakeshore.
NZMCA chief executive Bruce Lochore thought a workable bylaw was possible if the two organisations kept talking, but wasn't backing away from legal action if necessary.
"But it's the last course of action. If we have to go down that road I'll see it as much a failing on our behalf as it is the council's. We'll bend over backwards to avoid having this type of confrontation," Mr Lochore said.
"I believe we can get a bylaw in place that first and foremost is consistent with the act, addresses the concerns of the community and allows the businesses to benefit from it, and also is welcoming to tourists."
Mr Lochore said his suggestion was to call a halt on the process, take another look at the draft bylaw and at the Freedom Camping Act 2011.
"They'll quickly see that there are a number of clauses within that draft that are inconsistent with the legislation."
NZMCA policy and planning manager James Imlach said the NZMCA would be happy to support a ban on camping in the CBD because it was a high-use area. But it did not think freedom campers should be kept away from the entire circumference of Lake Taupo where they had traditionally parked in the past.
Members' feedback was that they loved camping in Taupo and wanted to be on the lakefront.
"What we're suggesting is we all know where the pressure points are in Taupo, why can't you apply the prohibitions and restrictions in those areas and the rest of the district remain relatively free?"
But Taupo District mayor David Trewavas said he and the councillors heard clear community concerns about camping next to the lake.
"We heard from people who were worried about the effect on our most important taonga - Lake Taupo - by things such as overcrowding and access issues, discharge of waste, damage to sensitive areas and the effects of misuse of these sites.
"We all acknowledge many freedom campers are responsible and cause little damage. However, strong community feedback is that during busy summer months, the effects are significant."
Mr Trewavas said the challenge was to find a way to protect the lake while complying with the Freedom Camping Act.
"Frankly, while most campers are reasonable, the actions of the minority mean that eventually the community tolerance ends."
Council staff are gathering more information to identify where camping may occur without the proposed 100m buffer zone.