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Time to decide on freedom camping issue

By May 19, 2016 No Comments

Residents can have their say on where freedom campers should be allowed to stay in Raglan, with the Waikato District Council Proposed Freedom Camping Bylaw 2016 open for submissions until May 27.

Freedom camping was prohibited in the Waikato until the Freedom Camping Act came into force in 2011 in time for New Zealand’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup. The legislation prohibits councils to impose a total ban on freedom camping, but allows for a $200 instant fine for those camping illegally and a fine of up to $10,000 for those dumping sewerage incorrectly.

The Waikato District Council is proposing a bylaw that specifies council/public areas in the Waikato that are and are not open to freedom campers.

For the Raglan area, the draft bylaw suggests that freedom camping not be permitted at and around Manu Bay, Tohora Close and Calvert Rd at Whale Bay, around the Wainui Bush and Ngarunui Beach reserves, Kopua Domain, Cliff and Puriri Sts, Riria Kereopa Dr, Wainamu Rd, the Papanui Point carpark, Ruapuke Beach Rd and the nearby Swann Access Rd, and the Bridal Falls carpark at Te Mata.

Under the proposal, freedom camping will be permitted in Raglan at the Wainui Rd carpark by the Raglan Fire Station and some of the carparks at the bottom of Stewart Street, with campers only able to park there between the hours of 8pm and 8am.

Vehicles that are fully self-contained and carry a current self-containment warrant can stay a maximum of three nights at any one location. However, non self-contained vehicles, can only freedom camp at these two sites for a maximum of two nights.

The council is asking for feedback on the proposed areas and restrictions, and whether there are other areas where freedom camping is causing problems.

The Raglan Community Board is making a submission to the council, and will suggest one of the parking areas at the Raglan rugby grounds also be included for fully self-contained campers.

Board member Bob McLeod says while it supports the draft bylaw, the board would like to encourage campers without their own facilities to use one of the Raglan camping grounds.

New Zealand Motor Caravan Association members could currently also stay at the Raglan Club carpark and at any “park over properties” (POP) in the town, with Raglan providing three dump sites for grey water.

The major issue about freedom camping is policing, he says, and the council needs to extend the powers of ticketing for camping offences to more of their staff so that enforcement of the rules is strengthened.

“The key to this whole thing is … for the council to have more people to give them [campers who break the rules] tickets. As soon as it’s known on social media that if you park there you’ll get a $200 instant fine, people won’t go and park there,” Bob says.

“It’s not the certified ones that are the problem. It’s the uncertified ones that are. They aren’t looking after our environment. Leave no footprint is our motto.”

Rachel Benn

Submissions on the bylaw must be received by 5pm on May 27. They can be made online, emailed to consult@waidc.govt.nz, posted to Waikato District Council, 15 Galileo Street, Ngaruawahia 3720, faxed to (07) 824 8091 or delivered to any council office or library.

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