Waikato District Council has removed permitted areas for freedom camping in Raglan from its proposed bylaw, and banned more locations.

The council made the changes to its proposed Freedom Camping Bylaw in response to submissions regarding the new legislation.

Council received 90 submissions on the proposed bylaw: 50 against, 29 for and 11 neutral.

The council is drafting the new bylaw in line with the Freedom Camping Act 2011, and it can only restrict or prohibit freedom camping to protect an area, protect the health and safety of people, or protect access.

A large number of submitters did not support the permitted areas for freedom camping that were identified for Raglan: the Wainui Rd car park near the fire station, parking adjacent to 1-5 Stewart St and the western end of Stewart St.

The reasons included concerns regarding obstruction of access by emergency services personnel, safety issues, crime, noise and rubbish.

“In response to these submissions staff recommend that the permitted areas in Raglan should be removed,” the council said in its summary of submissions.

Submitters also put forward more areas where they thought freedom camping should be prohibited.

“Where the purpose for placing a prohibition fitted with the (Freedom Camping) Act they have been included in the bylaw,” the summary states.

Prohibited areas in the draft bylaw now include the car park near the fire station, the wharf, Earles Pl, Greenslade Rd and Lorenzen Bay Rd and Sunshine Rise.

Other prohibited areas for freedom camping, as outlined in the proposed bylaw, are: Manu Bay and surrounding area, Whale Bay, Tohora Cl, Calvert Pl, Ngarunui Beach Reserve, Kopua Domain, Cliff St, Puriri St, Riria Kereopa Memorial Dr, Wainamu Rd, Papanui Point car park, Swann Access Rd, Wainui Rd, Ruapuke Beach Rd, Bridal Veil Falls car park.

The fire service, Raglan police and St John Ambulance service all opposed the use of the Wainui Rd car park as a freedom camping site because it would impede operations by emergency services.

Roy Breeze, of the New Zealand Fire Service, recommended that the car park should be listed “as an area where freedom camping is prohibited at all times”.

“The station houses two fire appliances and an emergency response ute. When a callout is signalled by the station siren, up to 28 brigade members respond,” he wrote in his submission.

“A callout can occur at any time of the day or night, on any day of the week.”

He said the area also had to be kept clear for the rescue helicopter, which uses the landing pad outside the station. “When this occurs, it usually involves a life or death situation where time management is critical.”

David Hall, on behalf of Raglan Police, opposed the bylaw.

“The proposed areas on Wainui Rd and Stewart St are within the liquor ban area for the town. There is potential for campers to breach the liquor ban whilst living in their caravans,” he wrote in his submission.

He said the congregation of campers would attract other people and “potentially raise the risk of disorderly behaviour (and) of petty crime to take place.”

The Raglan Chamber of Commerce said it did not support freedom camping of any type.

Chairman Dave Currie, in his submission, said freedom camping affected businesses and residents alike. “The proposed solution of the Wainui Rd car park will cause financial harm to established businesses such as Raglan Backpackers and Kopua Holiday Park. And will ultimately damage the aesthetic and amenity values of Raglan.

“Freedom Camping has caused major harm to other New Zealand cities. We suggest the Waikato District Council join the rest of the local government organisations to lobby the central government for a law change.”

Some submitters requested that the entire town of Raglan become a prohibited area, but council said this was “not in keeping with the mobile home friendly approach” that it had chosen to take.

Council also stated that a blanket ban on freedom camping was not permitted.

The proposed bylaw currently allows for freedom camping in self-contained vehicles to occur throughout the district for up to three nights, except in prohibited areas.

The council also made changes to its definition of self-contained vehicle, with the proposed bylaw now stating “a self-contained vehicle must be equipped with a toilet that is secured when travelling. The toilet must be readily usable within the vehicle”.

The use of any reserve for freedom camping will assessed as part of the reserve management plan process. This includes the Raglan Rugby Grounds.

The Policy and Regulatory Committee hearing of the Proposed Freedom Camping Bylaw was heard in Ngaruawahia yesterday.

Inger Vos