SHARE

By ROBYN BRISTOW

Hurunui’s controversial freedom camping bylaw will be reviewed as soon as it is enacted, rather than rely on the more lenient national law over summer.

The bylaw continued its tortuous journey at a special meeting of the Hurunui District Council last Thursday, amid a series of complaints from towns across the region.

It was again the subject of debate at a public meeting in Hanmer Springs on Sunday night.

Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie said the Sunday night meeting allowed the community to express its concerns about freedom camping and for the council to understand them.

The bylaw was approved at the council’s July meeting, but there has since been kickback from four locations across the district.

A motion seeking to revoke the bylaw was lost at the special meeting, with five councillors voting against revocation and three in favour.

The July decision now stands and the bylaw will become operative on September 1.

However, it will immediately be going on review from that date, with staff reporting back in February 2019.

The bylaw does not sit well with Hanmer Springs residents.

They are unhappy with the designation of sites in the village and feel their petition, presented by Sally McDonald at the special meeting, was not taken into account when the council voted to support its July decision.

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.

The legal ins and outs of revocation, and amending or reviewing the bylaw, were explained by Susan Rowe, a representative of law firm Buddle Findlay.

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 national Freedom Camping Act would be in force.

The Act states that freedom camping is permitted unless there is a reason to
prohibit it, putting the onus on councils to control it in their districts.
The Kaikoura and Waimakariri district councils have decided to work under the Act, using other bylaws to deal with litter and any sanitation issues.
Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley says managing freedom camping has been
difficult and controversial across the country.

“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.”

Hurunui councillors tried to get to grips with the best way forward for more
than 90 minutes at the special meeting.

As well as the petition from Hanmer Springs businesses and residents, councillors also had to weigh up concerns from Waiau, Rotherham and
Gore Bay residents about the bylaw’s effects.

In a Facebook post following Sunday night’s meeting in Hanmer Springs, Ms
McDonald said the meeting was in favour of two sites for campers which it was felt were more suitable – one near the pavilion and one down by the river
opposite a locked area where certified and self-contained campers were
accommodated.

She urged everyone to work together with the Hanmer Springs Community
Board and council, and to gather evidence to show the existing designated
sites were unsuitable. Such evidenceĀ could then be used as part of the review.

Cr Jason Fletcher said at the special meeting that the community board and
residents wanted the status quo to remain.

They did not want people
camping in the middle of town and maintained that 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 was a problem in a particular area, were also discussed, but in the end councillors were swayed by a Christchurch City Council decision to pass a bylaw and for staff to bring forward a February review.

Cr Fiona Harris said the notice of motion was brought forward to the special meeting 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.