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Freedom Camping bylaw development update

Published: 14 September 2018

Auckland Council is committed to effectively and proactively managing freedom camping across the Auckland region.

Last year, the Regulatory Committee decided to manage the activity through the development of a bylaw, under the Freedom Camping Act 2011.

The Act is accommodating of freedom camping, which means that the council can only restrict or prohibit freedom camping if it is satisfied that it is necessary to protect access to an area, the area itself and/or the health and safety of people who visit.

This is different to the current situation under legacy bylaws that prohibit camping across the region, except in designated areas.

Councillor Linda Cooper, Chair of Auckland Council’s Regulatory Committee, says that the development of a new bylaw under the Act is about balance.

“The aim of the new bylaw is to provide enough places where people can freedom camp to meet demand, while also minimising the negative impacts that can frustrate local communities," she says.

“We know that if there are only a few sites where freedom camping is allowed, these areas get overcrowded, and more problems occur."

Auckland is the gateway for most of the 3.4 million tourists that come to New Zealand and previous estimates used by Auckland Council are that 320 freedom camping vehicles a day are either travelling on the region's roads or parked in public places over the summer period.

“This is certainly a tricky issue. We hope that by allowing freedom camping at more sites, overcrowding will decrease, and it will also encourage tourists to enjoy some other lesser-known areas of Auckland. In saying that, we are acutely aware of the need to safeguard local areas and communities where it wouldn’t be suitable,” says Councillor Cooper.

New bylaw won’t be in place this summer

Manager of Social Policy and Bylaws Michael Sinclair says that earlier this year staff undertook initial site assessments and held community and local board workshops to understand areas that need to be protected.

“Local boards were recently presented with recommendations from staff about sites in their area where freedom camping should be either prohibited or restricted, and 90 per cent of the recommendations for the 530 sites were supported. They each then provided further feedback, which will be considered for the draft bylaw.”

It was initially indicated that a new bylaw could be in place for Summer 2018/19. However, due to the large amount of feedback from local boards, and further advice needed on the legal implications of the Reserves Act, this is now not realistic. This means that current rules under legacy bylaws will continue to apply this summer.

“It is important that we do this properly and extending the timeframe will give us more time for implementation and enforcement planning, which will be crucial to the success of the bylaw,” says Mr Sinclair.

“It also means that we can use this summer to do further monitoring around what is working at the current sites, and issues that need to be addressed.”

Direction on the draft bylaw

Staff have worked with the Regulatory Committee to discuss issues that have arisen throughout the development process and have received direction on the draft bylaw.

The committee confirmed the intent of the bylaw is to address the harms from freedom camping by increasing the supply of sites in suitable areas and providing for improved enforcement.  Staff were directed to create a bylaw that is regionally consistent and simple, will include a schedule of prohibited and restricted sites and provides flexibility for further sites to be added if issues arise in the future.  The committee also agreed that a humane approach to enforcement will be taken to protect vulnerable members of the Auckland community.

“General rules” had initially been proposed to apply to all public spaces that were not specifically listed in the schedules or covered by the Reserves Act. However, at the September meeting of the Regulatory Committee, staff were directed not to include the general rule provision in the bylaw. Therefore, the draft bylaw will only include the restricted and prohibited categories.

Next steps and public consultation

A draft bylaw and statement of proposal will now be presented to the committee in November, after which it will be presented to the Governing Body. If accepted, it will then go out for public consultation, before final adoption next year.

Current rules continue to apply

Freedom Camping is currently regulated under legacy bylaw provisions established under the Local Government Act 2002.  These prohibit freedom camping except in designated sites where restrictions are in place. 

There are legacy council designated freedom camping sites in the Rodney, Franklin, and Hibiscus and Bays local board areas. Some of these sites have also been recommended to have restrictions or prohibitions placed on them when the new bylaw is introduced due to issues that have been experienced over recent years.

For further information visit the Auckland Council website.