New Freedom Camping bylaw to be developed

Auckland Council is to develop a new region-wide bylaw to manage the demands caused by the growth of freedom camping across Auckland.

The council’s Regulatory Committee agreed yesterday that a new bylaw will be developed under the Freedom Camping Act 2011. Under the Act, freedom camping is permitted everywhere in a local authority area unless it is prohibited or restricted in accordance with a bylaw.

The Act allows councils to restrict and prohibit freedom camping if it is necessary to protect a certain area, the access to it or the health and safety of visitors.  It also allows for improved enforcement through issuing immediate infringement notices for breaches of a bylaw.

Currently, a number of bylaws inherited from Auckland’s former councils already heavily restrict where freedom camping can occur. There are also 14 designated freedom camping sites located in the Rodney, Franklin, and Hibiscus and Bays.

However, these rules are inconsistent across the region and do not address all issues. Designated camping sites are also increasingly overcrowded.

Councillor Linda Cooper, Chair of the Regulatory Committee, says more effective region-wide rules are needed to address growing community concerns about the demands put on public places and local facilities.

“Auckland is one of the country’s most popular freedom camping areas with world-class beaches and a vibrant city centre in easy reach and because people start or end their stay here.

“But overcrowded camp sites are resulting in illegal camping activities in public areas that the council currently lacks the regulatory and non-regulatory tools to manage.

“This is causing a rise in complaints about how popular locations are being used, including access issues, blocked views, noises and odours from cooking and generators and the demands on facilities like public toilets.

“There are other issues about rubbish, litter or waste which are caused by freedom campers, day visitors and locals alike, which will continue to be managed through Auckland Unitary Plan rules and other bylaws.

“The majority of freedom campers, whether they be local residents or domestic and international visitors, are responsible campers who plan their stay in advance.

“But with the huge growth in tourism, freedom camping issues are not going away and developing a new bylaw under the Act will provide the tools needed to manage them appropriately,” says Councillor Cooper.

It is expected to take 18 months to develop the new bylaw, which will include further public consultation. Until then the existing legacy council bylaws will remain in force.