Taupo District Council has decided to defer making a decision on a draft freedom camping bylaw while it assesses just how much land around Lake Taupo will be affected by its proposed 100m freedom camping buffer zone.
The council decided in June it needed to reconsider a draft freedom camping bylaw it originally intended to have in place for this coming summer. The original draft bylaw proposed banning freedom camping from all public areas in the district except for a list of designated sites, but a threat of legal action from the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association saw it turned completely around.
In June councillors were presented with a new draft which specified where freedom camping was not allowed. That included a 100m buffer zone around the edge of the lake to the control gates, also known as the Taupo-nui-a-Tia boundary.
However, camping is already banned on most Taupo District Council reserves and on private land, meaning it is unclear how much of the perimeter around the lake needs to be covered by a buffer zone.
Council chief executive Gareth Green said the call for further information was to allow the council to assess what the actual effects of a 100m buffer zone around the lake would be and to find out which places the 100m buffer zone would cover.
"Until we know where it is that we are talking about, we can't answer those questions."
Mr Green said on both sides of the freedom camping argument there would be people who thought the draft bylaw either went too far or not far enough and a number of individuals and groups had already said they would consider a judicial review if the bylaw wasn't based on solid information and followed the Freedom Camping Act.
"Whatever decision we make we'd make sure that it's legally correct so that if we were potentially reviewed from either side, that council knows its decision is defendable."
He said council officers would now go away and seek the information councillors had asked for and bring it to a subsequent council meeting where councillors would decide whether to adopt the bylaw or not or do more consultation.
"We would try and find some logical balance."
He said any decision had to be evidence-based and council could only collect evidence that actually existed and had done so in the lead up to the bylaw being drafted. Having motorhomes or vans in an area was of itself not considered to an impact.
"It has to be [blocking] access, or defecating, or rubbish."
However, he said the community had been "quite vocal about its aspirations" to control freedom camping around the lakeshore and the council had been trying to find a balance that was legally correct but also what the community wanted.