Fancy having someone living on the street outside your house, school, kindergarten or local playground?

Under the proposed freedom camping bylaw - which could be in place by the end of June - the current protections that prohibit people living in vehicles on residential Auckland streets have been removed.

This will mean that anyone can live in their vehicle unrestricted and indefinitely in all public areas - unless they are designated prohibited or restricted by Auckland Council.

The proposed bylaw will also see the number of designated freedom camping sites across Auckland increase from 14 to 107 - with 87 of these sites currently protected reserves.

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Rodney ward councillor Greg Sayers is one of many Aucklanders calling on the Council to boycott the bylaw.

"I'm distraught that most Aucklanders don't realise the bylaw opens it up for people to live in vehicles at 87 parks across Auckland and many are next to children's playgrounds, which are currently protected from such activity," Sayers said.

"The bylaw also proposes that every residential street in Auckland can be opened up for freedom camping. That means people can camp for free on any street, for any length of time they like.

"Because of those two issues, I am asking the Mayor to pull the bylaw in its current form off the table, not rush a decision by June, and allow the Local Boards to include their thoughts into a revised bylaw."

The decision to revoke the current bylaw provisions and replace them with a new Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw was made in November last year.

The proposed bylaw will see the number of designated freedom camping sites across Auckland increase from 14 to 107 - with 87 of these sites currently protected reserves. Image / Auckland Council
The proposed bylaw will see the number of designated freedom camping sites across Auckland increase from 14 to 107 - with 87 of these sites currently protected reserves. Image / Auckland Council

Council documents state the proposal aims to improve the management of freedom camping in vehicles in Auckland and provide additional enforcement tools for dealing with inappropriate freedom camping behaviour.

The proposal was open for public feedback from December 3, 2018, to February 18, 2019. At the close of public submissions period Council had received 2694 submissions.

A Hearing Report released on Friday shows that over 60 per cent of submitters agreed with creating a new bylaw, however, there was much contention about what this bylaw should look like and how it would be monitored and enforced.

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Over one quarter of submitters were concerned about the loss of protection that the legacy bylaws provided.

The current bylaw prohibits freedom camping on roadsides and in most of Auckland's public spaces, but these areas - including roadsides without time limits - are not included in the proposed bylaw and would become unrestricted.

"Areas that have no restrictions, such as Tamaki Drive, Mission Bay , Kohimarama and St Heliers beachfront and in fact any street anywhere, campers will be allowed to park up for as long as they like if there are no general parking restrictions," one submitter wrote.

"People do not want campervans parked up outside their homes or businesses indefinitely."

The current bylaw prohibits freedom camping on roadsides and in most of Auckland's public spaces. Photo / File
The current bylaw prohibits freedom camping on roadsides and in most of Auckland's public spaces. Photo / File

Almost half, 46 per cent, of submitters also thought there shouldn't be an increase in the number of areas where people can freedom camp in Auckland.

Submitters were concerned that increasing the number of areas would spread the problem, cause greater disruption for communities and be difficult to enforce, the report said.

"I agree that there need to be more designated areas for camping in Auckland, but all reserve and park areas in Auckland are precious and need protecting," one submitter wrote.

"More places for camping in Auckland should not mean that these reserves and park areas become designated campgrounds. Local residents should not have their access or enjoyment of reserve areas compromised to accommodate freedom campers.

"There must be alternative locations for freedom camping on land controlled by Auckland Council (or Auckland Transport), other than parks and reserves."

If freedom camping was to continue, 56 per cent of submitters felt it should be restricted to certified self-contained vehicles only - in areas that are not near public facilities.

Most submitters who agreed with the proposal considered it was important for the
environment, the campers and other users of an area that freedom campers have access to a toilet at all times, the report said.

Some submitters were concerned about the cost or pressure this would create on existing infrastructure.

If freedom camping was to continue, 56 per cent of submitters felt it should be restricted to certified self-contained vehicles only. Photo / File
If freedom camping was to continue, 56 per cent of submitters felt it should be restricted to certified self-contained vehicles only. Photo / File

Other concerns expressed included the ability for council to have the resources and fund the costs to enforce the bylaw, how council would collect fines from those who are travelling, and the effect on commercial campground operators.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told the Herald: "The majority of councillors on the regulatory committee voted against including a general rule that would provide a general prohibition of long-term camping on residential streets. I think that was a mistake and that we need to revisit it."

Albert-Eden-Roskill ward councillor Christine Fletcher said the bylaw has to be amended to take into account the community's feedback.

"Secondly, the opening up of all residential streets for unrestricted permanent living is unwanted and I believe should be axed," she said.

Waitemata and Gulf ward councillor Mike Lee also agreed the Council's plan to allow freedom camping on parks and reserves was "deeply worrying".

"What the Council is planning is the wholesale deregulation of the current protections around our local parks and reserves. The public needs to be made aware of the full implications, including issues of safety and loss of amenity," he said.

Also in support is Albany ward councillor John Watson.

"To date freedom camping in my ward has been characterised by a constant barrage of conflicts and complaints with local residents and the misuse of public facilities such as toilets and public reserve parking areas," he said.

Councillors are seeking an extension on the decision-making deadline from next month, to allow the local board's the chance to give community feedback, and the residential street parking rule publically consulted on.

Rodney ward councillor Greg Sayers. Photo / Michael Craig
Rodney ward councillor Greg Sayers. Photo / Michael Craig

Sayers believes Council officials should add a general rule restricting free camping on residential streets.

But he says that was omitted from the original public consultation material and for such a large change it is a legal requirement to ask the public's opinion.

He said issues like where irresponsible campers defecate, litter, child safety and the ability to enforce the bylaw are also of concern if carte blanche parking in residential streets is allowed.

Albany ward councillor Wayne Walker is also upset about the bylaws implications.

"There are many responsible freedom campers and their feedback needs to be listened to about the dangers of allowing unlimited living in cars and campervans in our streets," he said.

While Howick ward councillor Sharon Stewart said Council had "botched the process".

"It's undemocratic and poor process that our community elected local board members were denied reading any community submissions before being asked their opinion on suitable freedom camping sites," she said.

"Also the public and the responsible freedom camping fraternity haven't been consulted about free camping in residential streets being appropriate or not."

Auckland Council is expected to vote on the Freedom Camping in Vehicle Bylaw in late June 2019.

While public consultation has now closed, public deliberations are scheduled on Wednesday and Friday this week - however, you cannot give feedback at these meetings.

Following the conclusion of deliberations, the panel will prepare recommendations to present to the Governing Body. If approved, council staff will implement the decision.

Auckland Council Social Policy & Bylaws policy manager Michael Sinclair told the Herald the council began developing its Freedom Camping bylaw in 2017 because previous regulations were unenforceable.

This rendered them "ineffective for dealing with problems associated with freedom camping when they occurred and they did not provide robust enough protections, including on our residential streets".

"The Freedom Camping Act gives councils increased enforcement powers for regulating freedom camping, but the trade-off for this is that the default position within that Act is to allow freedom camping unless certain criteria are met that would justify it being restricted or prohibited. The focus of the consultation has therefore been on seeking evidence that would allow the council to impose a restriction or prohibition.

"In September last year staff recommended to Auckland Council's Regulatory Committee that a general rule be applied to all areas not specified in the bylaw or covered by the Reserves Act (which would have been two night maximum stay for self-contained vehicles only).

"Some committee members were concerned about the potential impact this could have on homeless people sleeping in their vehicles so resolved (by majority vote) to not include the general rule in the statement of proposal. This was also flagged when the Statement Of Proposal went to the Governing Body for approval before it was publicly notified.

"Although the proposal does not prohibit freedom camping in residential streets, the bylaw framework does enable streets where there are problems associated with freedom camping occurring to become prohibited. Indeed, there are some streets where prohibitions have been recommended through the proposal."

• For more information go to the Auckland Council website.