‘We have serious misgivings about the process of how this decision was reached and the impact that this is likely to have had on the outcome.’ –Hanmer Springs Accommodation Providers Group spokesman Paul Baigent
By ROBYN BRISTOW
Hanmer Springs business owners want the Hurunui District Council to go back to the drawing board with its freedom camping bylaw.
The council has adopted a new bylaw allowing freedom camping in the middle of the Hanmer Springs Village, which has made some local business-owners unhappy. They question how the council reached its decision.
The bylaw will add two freedom camping sites outside the Hanmer Springs Library, and another two in the Chisholm car park, all in public locations in the middle of town.
Hanmer Springs Accommodation Providers Group spokesman Paul Baigent suggests the process was flawed, which compromised the council’s decision in regard to the alpine village.
He says after hearing submissions and considering changes on the draft bylaw, councillors were advised that proposed freedom camping sites in the middle of the village could not be removed because the Hanmer Springs Community Board supported those sites.
Councillors were also advised that the community board’s view should take precedence over other submissions from Hanmer Springs.
“This is misleading, as the community board’s preferred position was to exclude freedom camping from the village,” he says.
“We agree that the Hurunui District Council must find an effective way to manage the rise of freedom camping, and we understand we have to respect the decision once it’s made.
“However, we have serious misgivings about the process of how this decision was reached and the impact that this is likely to have had on the outcome,” Mr Baigent says.
“We call on the Hurunui District Council to set aside it’s decision regarding Hanmer Springs pending full consultation as required by law.”
Community board chairman David Smith says the board had consistently expressed its caution in relation to increased freedom camping in Hanmer Springs and has written to the council expressing its concerns over the bylaw.
He says the council may have relied on earlier discussion in which the community board had been advised that it would not be possible to maintain a ban on freedom camping.
“When discussed most recently (February 2018), no decision was reached pending feedback from an expected briefing of mayors by the new Minister for Tourism,” he says.
Mr Baigent says the councillor for the Hanmer Springs ward, Jason Fletcher, was excluded from the discussion and decision-making process around the bylaw, due to conflicts of interest.
“The council did not take appropriate action to ensure that Hanmer Springs’ interests were represented, like including the chair of the Hanmer Springs Community Board in discussions, so to us this process was flawed.
“Our views were not represented during this discussion.”
The Hanmer Springs Business Association chairman, Christian Chester, agrees with the Hanmer Springs Accommodation Providers Group’s concerns.
“The Business Association put in a submission on the bylaw and we are very concerned that the wishes of the Hanmer Springs business community have been ignored, because of this breakdown in council process,” he says.
Mayor Winton Dalley, in a story on the bylaw in last week’s North Canterbury News, said the council has been through a substantial consultation process with the community, and had responded by adopting a new bylaw.