By Robyn Bristow
A freedom camping bylaw continued its torturous journey at a special meeting of the Hurunui District Council on Thursday.
A Notice of Motion seeking to revoke a bylaw approved at the council’s July meeting, that has had kick back from four different locations in the district, didn’t gain support, with five councillors voting against revocation and three in favour.
The July decision now stands. The bylaw will come into force on September 1, but it will immediately go on review, with staff reporting back in February 2019.
It replaces a bylaw which dates back to 2011 and expires on September 1.
The legal ins and outs of revocation, amending or reviewing the bylaw were explained by a representative from Buddle Findlay’s Susan Rowe.
Councillors were also told if they voted to revoke the fledgling bylaw, the whole process would have to be started again, including consulting on the revocation. In the interim, which could be up to eight weeks or more, the Freedom Camping Act would be in force.
The Act states freedom camping is permitted, unless there is a reason to prohibit it, an act its neighbours, the Kaikoura and Waimakariri District Councils have decided to work under using other bylaws to deal with litter and any sanitation issues.
Hurunui councillors tried to get to grips with the best way forward for over an hour and half, prior to which a petition from Hanmer Springs businesses and residents was presented and concerns from Waiau, Rotherham and Gore Bay residents were also brought to councillors attention.
The petition, signed by 435 people in Hanmer Springs, opposed the bylaw which allows for two freedom camping sites outside the Hanmer Springs library and another two in the Chisholm car park.
Cr Jason Fletcher said the local community board and residents wanted the status quo to remain. They did not want people camping in the middle of town and maintained the consultation process leading up to the bylaw was flawed.
Options of being able to impose a temporary ban on freedom camping, backed by evidence if there being a problem in a particular area, were also discussed, but in the end councillors were swayed by a Christchurch City Council’s decision to pass a bylaw and for staff to bring foward a review by February next year.
Cr Fiona Harris says the Notice of Motion was brought forward because she had a series of concerns over the discussion around the bylaw in July, particularly with regard to the consideration of individual settlements, rather than the whole district, amenity and environmental values and the council’s ability to monitor the bylaw.
Mayor Winton Dalley says when approving the bylaw, councillors were satisfied that the council had met the consultation requirements and the engagement process had been extensive.
“Managing freedom camping has been difficult and controversial across the country, and each council has tried hard to balance and manage the positive and negative aspects of this age-old but fast growing activity, cognisant of the Freedom Camping Act and the views of the community.
“Our new bylaw will ensure freedom camping is proactively managed in our district and the review which councillors have instructed council officers to undertake will ensure issues arising will be dealt with through amendments to the bylaw.
“In the interim, we will work with our communities to ensure this bylaw works and is fit for purpose,” he says.
All the information on the new bylaw can be viewed on the councils website and the interactive online map showing the areas in which freedom camping will be permitted or prohibited, can be viewed at: http://hdc.maps