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Campers association seeks to quash bylaw

Published: 3:56PM Sunday January 13, 2013 Source: ONE News

  • File image of a motor home. (Source: Getty)
    File image of a motor home. - Source: Getty

The New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) is taking the Westland District Council to the High Court in a bid to quash a freedom camping bylaw.

The NZMCA says the Westland District Council has adopted an "overly restrictive Freedom Camping Bylaw in breach of the Freedom Camping Act".

NZMCA general manager Bruce Lochore said the association's view is shared by the Westland District Council's own Strategy Committee, which recommended a number of changes to the Draft Policy and Bylaw.

"However, the council opted to ignore the Strategy Committee's recommendations - even with the knowledge the NZMCA would seek a judicial review to have the bylaw quashed if it went ahead," he said in a statement.

The NZMCA argues that the Council has effectively imposed a prohibition on freedom camping on all public land and roads within 1km of the boundary of all townships and settlements.

"In doing so they have ignored their obligations to adequately assess any perceived issues and consider alternative measures which may be appropriate and proportionate to the issue," said Lahore.

In the lead up to the Rugby World Cup councils sought to have a mechanism to deal with the worst offending freedom campers, and that is when the government introduced the Freedom Camping Act.

"The Government gave them the Freedom Camping Act which allowed them to ban or restrict freedom camping in certain areas and the ability to issue fines. The Government also ensured the rights of every Kiwi who freedom camps responsibly are secured by making councils identify specific sites they want banned and justifying those decisions."

During Parliamentary debates on the issue, Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson said: "The Act is pro-camping and local authorities are expected to take a permissive approach."

Lawyers Chen Palmer are due to file papers on behalf of the NZMCA with the High Court in Greymouth tomorrow.

Lochore said the NZMCA is "bitterly disappointed" to have been forced to take this action.

"We have committed considerable expertise and resources to councils over the past months and have demonstrated our willingness to work with them. But we will not sit back and have the rights of our members to responsibly freedom camp stomped on by any council," he said.