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Freedom Camping - NZMCA Fires Its Shot!

Mayor Leach is nothing if not consistent on the Freedom Camping issue, and he saved his most virulent venom for yesterday's meeting when a paper came forward from Policy Planning suggesting By-law changes that have arisen from the recent public consultation. I for one will never forget his reaction where a couple of young, pin-striped associates from Chen Palmer attended a Council meeting in 2011 to lecture Council on the legal jeopardy it was entering with its new By-law. They were lucky to escape!

The MCA Judicial Challenge goes to court in Hamilton on 16 April, and I fully expect that the legal guns will be turned on our Council at great expense to rate-payers. MCA is well funded of course with well over 40,000 determined members, and executive. 

Leach's response to this piece of legal theatre is understandable, if offensive to some, when one considers the changes to the current By-law that are likely to emerge in order to achieve a level of compromise with the protagonists. He must understand that this will achieve nothing - the MCA is clearly determined to foil any attempt by ours or any other Council to put the Government legislated intentions into practice. They want nothing less than total freedom to park up wherever and however they like. They appear to see the intended aim to restrain unserviced vehicles as a 'red-herring', and promote 'freedom of choice' as everyone's right, no matter in which ways this effects the right of others.  

Their unwillingness to even await the publication of the new proposals speaks volumes in regard their integrity and good faith - somehow or other, the view from those Wellington high rises just seems clouded by its determination to take on the one or two councils that it knows are limited financially, and that seek only to retain the environments that are basically their principle asset.

I trust and hope that our Council is sufficiently alive to the threat to retain the very best legal counsel available. I am frankly sick and tired of the faint air of legal superiority that seems to emanate without respite from the office of Ms Chen, and the MCA suit is no exception. It is time this challenge was put to rest. 




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Reader Comments (13)

Bill, have you relied solely on the Mayor's outburst to form your opinion? Suggest reading the affidavits and statement of claim first as there is always two sides to every story.

I'm surprised you're supporting the TCDC's decision not to consult the public when they made major changes to the FC bylaw in March 2013. Elsewhere in your blog you're criticising Leach and Co. fighting for democracy on behalf of the public, however on this occasion who cares.....

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames Imlach (NZMCA)

James you should hang your head in shame. Leach is right to stick to his guns on this one. The FC Bylaw is being reviewed right now and yet you are still hell bent of taking this court action at a significant cost to ratepayers who have clearly stated for 25 years that we do not want freedom camping throughout our district. The TCDC has bent over backwards to accommodate self contained campers in select locations but no you feel you have a right to dictate to small communities that your members have a greater right. You can be rest assured that no matter what the outcome of the court review the Council will have rules and regulations that will put our special environment before those tourist who crap and piss anywhere in the dead of night.

The integrity and goodwill of the NZMCA went out the door when you accepted as members of your association the very rental companies that promote the rental of non self contained campers with no thought whatsoever to where the occupants drop there turds and toilet paper throughout our districts parks, reserves and laybys.

Yes the freedom Camping Act is an ass and the council might have got it wrong but the intention was correct to adopt a bylaw that would essentially manage a problem that was getting worse despite a total prohibition of freedom camping since the "80's.

I'm one of many ratepayers who is actually happy to have my rates used to put our environment first. Next time you come to the Coromandel (if you have ever been here) head north and check out the campsites & laybys that are littered with crap, tissue paper and rubbish. This is the result of freedom camping and as the NZMCA now openly supports overnight camping anywhere in NON SELF CONTAINED vehicles then your so called code of conduct has no merit.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterInsideout

Insideout - Please check your source of information as clearly you have your facts insideout. Prior to this court action the Council kept advising NZMCA that they would consult the pubic and review the bylaw - but kept reneging. Read the case documents online and see for yourself. So what were we to do? You state there will be a new bylaw however what will that look like? There is no record confirming the Council has reviewed and resolved (yes resolved) to consult on a new draft bylaw. So what assurance does the public have? The Councils word, which they have gone back on before?

The NZMCA does not accept rental companies in it's membership base. Never has. So I have no idea what you're on about. Furthermore, it does not support people crapping in the bush. In fact it encourages any local authority to use the FCA's infringement regime to deal with these irresponsible people. We are on the same page re protecting our environment from indiscriminate waste disposal however the Council has gone about it the wrong way by punishing everyone. Why must hundreds of responsible campers receive infringement notices for nothing more than parking overnight and in may cases parking in areas that are outside the scope of the Councils FCA bylaw?

Yes, the next time I visit our family home in the Coromandel I will continue to keep any eye out for those crapping in the bush. However, I am likely to see more rubbish dumped by locals, day trippers and cyclists pissing on the side of the road than freedom campers with their pants down.

Would it surprise you to know that of the few thousand infringement notices issued by TCDC you can count the number of tickets issued for campers crapping in the bush on one hand? The rest (99.9%) have been issued for people simply parking in a prohibited area. Hmmm.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Oh diddums' so this is all about the NZMCA taking the court case because Council had to delay the review of the bylaw. Since when should an outside power player (non rate payer body) dictate to a Council when a bylaw should be reviewed. From what I understand the delays were for valid reasons & it was well intended to have it reviewed in 2014 along with a few others that were due for modernising. Yes someone got it wrong in 2013 but the review now underway is going out for full consultation. Isn't that what you wanted? Even if the court decides that the bylaw should be scrapped that will not stop the Council introducing a new bylaw to prohibit overnight camping. Maybe they should go back to the old days, forget the FCA & bring back a bylaw banning overnight stays district wide and use the powers of the LGA to fine perpetrators.

By seeking to throw out the baby with the bath water you are now representing the desires of the non self contained campers to sleep overnight in our reserves, parks, streets & laybys. Get real James what do you think happens at night when someone wants to have a crap and you're in a little van with either no potty or a potty (certified by your lot) you will not drop it in the van for you and your van buddy to smell. I expect the enforcement officers don't catch many with their pants down so proving who dropped what where would be difficult. What I do know from talking to one of these guys is that they have a very large collection of photos of vans parked up with crap alongside. Not a nice job either I expect.
TCDC have to lock most of their loos at night due to vandals so they aren't an option.

I spoke to farmer up north last week who told me he busted one of your self contained buses who emptied its sewage tank on the side of the road because "the tank was full". You should respect communities to have rules and regulations that manage their problems and not dictate through legal loopholes and bully a democratically elected Council on how they should conduct their business.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterInsideout

No, it's more than that as you will see if you just read the case documents.
Our members who reside in the district encourage this court action, and they are ratepayers too. There is a groundswell of support from the business sector concerned with the strict enforcement regime on the responsible campers who are not harming the environment.
Yes, I agree TCDC got it terribly wrong in 2013 and as a result thousands of responsible campers have been moved on and unlawfully fined $200 each. You don't seem to care much about that fact?
Reverting back to the LGA for a blanket prohibition is not as simple as you may think, particularly if the decision is made for improper purposes as you suggest. You conveniently forget that the FCA still allows the Council to issue infringement notices for offences you're most concerned about, i.e. spoiling and damaging an area, without a bylaw in place.
We are certainly not representing the desires of those who have no respect for NZ's environment.
Please ask the farmer you spoke with to contact me at the NZMCA with details so if necessary we can follow that incident up and take appropriate action.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Insideout is on the right track James and whatever reason you corporate lot have to take TCDC to court I and many others are on side with Glen Leach on this . The bylaw is being reviewed right? So why still proceed with the court review at so much expense to ratepayers and your members? Everyone agrees both inside & outside the Castle that the old bylaw needs total rewriting. You, your members and ratepayers will all get a say on the new bylaw......stop living in the past and move on....focus on what is being put in front of you and work with our Council because from what I can see you both want the same thing.....a new bylaw. Where can we see your court documents? It will make good reading while at my campsite up north at a private camp.

April 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCorofirst

This reply to James Imlach is bit late - I had emailed it earlier late at night and failed to ensure that it went up on the blog - my error.

Sorry James - I just cannot agree with you on this. My opinion is entirely my own - totally unaffected by Leach's attitude. I happen to think that his 'outburst' was crude and unattractive, but that is Leach - he speaks from the heart as he sees it. I strongly believe that the MCA has made a major strategic error in proceeding with its case before seeing what is proposed in the By-law revisions. I have no idea myself, but I have a huge regard for Katina Conomos who has carriage of the matter as Manager of Policy Planning.
I am in New York at present, and have not had the opportunity to read the affidavits and statement of claim. Only too happy to do so if you willing to make them available.

April 11, 2014 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Thanks All, I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this matter (which is not necessarily a bad thing in itself).

We tried for two and a half years to encourage a fair and reasonable approach that dealt to those creating real problems, without punishing those who were responsible. We got nowhere. Council said they couldn't improve the situation as the law was too hard. So, we commissioned the creation of the model FCA bylaw, prepared in consultation with LGNZ and its lawyers, DOC and the DIA, to assist Councils. DOC and DIA support and LGNZ endorse the model bylaw....TCDC?? Now the Mayor says we should be working with them, yet twice he amended the bylaw without public consultation (a statutory requirement) which ultimately increased the level of prohibition district wide. They continue to fine people in areas that the bylaw does not even cover. Even enforcement officers are apologising when the offence is very minor, however have been told to show no mercy. You wouldn't accept a parking ticket if the car park had no time limit, yet innocent campers have to pay up regardless. Those who think the misuse of authority and power is acceptable in these circumstances should hang their heads in shame.

Please find the NZMCA statement of claim and first (of two) affidavits here - The second recent affidavit should be uploaded on Monday when we sort a technical glitch in the system. Unfortunately you will have to ask TCDC for copies of their statement of defense and supporting affidavits as I do not hold the original e-files (they are too large to scan and upload on here anyway).

According to Wednesday's Order Paper, the Council hasn't prepared a draft bylaw for consultation. As stated we have been told time and time again the bylaw is going to be reviewed only to find the Council delay the review at the last minute, or worse amend it without even telling you.

The legality of the bylaw aside, if you can try to look at the issue objectively are you not the least bit concerned about the way major decisions are being made and the blatant misuse of power? Does this happen with other decisions? I'd be interested in your thoughts on this particular issue alone.

April 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames

The TCDC caught with it regulatory pants down again. Obviously could not defend the indefensible despite Mayor Leach huff and puff and I'll blow your mobile house down bluster.

Yet agin another example of ill thought out regulation made in haste by a bull at a gate Mayor who has no idea about due process. What was the staff time and legal fees involved in this brouhaha?

April 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Peter in respect I think you need to move on and put your Leach bashing to one side on this topic at least. TCDC is not the same beast it was in 2011 and I for one observer have noticed the change. NZMCA are bullies and from the groundswell around the country they will have their work cut out for themselves trying to smear & drag to court every Council who adopts anything else but their very own (model) bylaw. The current court review is a lose lose situation at a massive cost to ratepayers and NZMCA members.

April 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCorofirst


Not sure where you sees any improvement, all I see is a state of denial and bombastic bluster.

I think you will find that Mayor Leach and NZMCA share a number of attributes other than being bullies, namely self serving verbosity.

I acknowledge your desire to see an ordered presence of Camper Vans on the Peninsular and in intent by Leach. However, the Bylaw was obviously seriously flawed in design and implementation.

Council policy and enforcment should not be at the whim of the personal prejudices of the incumbent Mayor, but considered and above all legally defensible.

The withdrawal is just another example of an elected politician totally out of his depth and any blame can fairly be laid at the feet of its authors, not NZMCA.

He spends far too much time in the kitchen making arbitrary decisions. You see it all the time with smaller District Councils where the Council is run like some sort of club, usually by some late to middle aged white guy who think they know whats what.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

It is probably too late now to avoid the damage that is likely to result from an adverse court decision. The judge has to follow due process, and it appears that our process left a lot to be desired. It comes from having put inexperienced, if not incompetent people in charge of the process from the outset. Leach was determined, and Day being his loyal dervish, devised the process, but there was input from Brookfields at all stages if I recall, so he cannot be entirely blamed for the situation.
The basic problem is that Government made it as difficult as possible to achieve a satisfactory result - it cunningly pushed the entire responsibility down to councils, and in effect set traps that Mai Chen has cheerfully exploited. Now we have Leach looking rather stupid (and I willingly acknowledge having supported our Council's approach, without following the legal trail as James Imlach pointedly explained), but the MCA has achieved no merit from adopting an aggressive stance.
James may achieve some satisfaction from this turn-up, but he may be left to dwell on the long-term damage that has not only be done to the Council, but to the MCA's position - not just here but in other areas that find themselves in a similar situation. Ways will be devised to control camping - that is a given, and no amount of legal challenge will avoid this eventual outcome. It simply means that TCDC, and others will need to adopt a far more legally defensible approach, and Leach back off and take advice for a change, instead of trying to give it!

April 17, 2014 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

The freedom camping issue has been a problem for TCDC long before Glen Leach was elected Mayor.

TCDC was famous [in NZ] for a blanket ban on Freedom Camping, aimed at backpackers, and those in people movers, who park up anywhere and just poo behind a bush.

The older retired New Zealander's with a self contained camper van and membership of the NZMCA, which they use to demand discounts from campgrounds and anything else in their path, were included in the rules, even though they are well behaved, clean up after themselves, and claim to be big spenders, although they have a reputation for meanness.

The self contained camper van is seen as a tardis to travel the highways and byways, park wherever you like for free, especially on beaches and in scenic places, and has been adopted by a mostly middle class New Zealand group who object to paying the prices demanded by motels, and campgrounds.

There are more then 50,000 of them, and they are militant.

Campground owners screwed by local councils with compliance and rates have no option but to ask for a fair return on their investment after costs. Gone are the days when we just camped on the footy field in the summer, or in some farmers paddock.

The 'freedom' campers reaction is to park up on the road use public toilets wherever possible, a charge on local councils, which in the TCDC case is thousands of dollars a week. A definite argument for pay toilets.

Every few days they book in to a campground, do the laundry, have a long shower, dump the rubbish, and roll on down the river.

The backpackers pull every trick known. One or two book in somewhere and let others in at night. When they sleep on the side of the road in some lay by they just go to the toilet behind the bush line, no spade, the cause of major pollution of waterways. There is not a lay by immune from these dung deposits.

When the world cup promised an influx of tourists who were going to spread wealth around the provinces traveling by camper van and visiting all the historic places the government brought in an Act which permitted 'freedom camping' which was as open ended as it is possible to be. No objections from the then Coromandel MP, the Greens, or for that matter any other party. There were bleats from various councils, all seriously affected by the freedom camping issue.

Then each set about dealing with the problem created as best they could.

In the case of TCDC an outgoing council briefed staff to draw up a bylaw that protected as much of the territory as possible, which they did, and presented their efforts to the incoming council, now led by a strident anti freedom camping Mayor.

There was some consultation with the public, with members of the NZMCA, militant as ever, demanding their rights.

Any conversation with a member of the NZMCA is only one step removed from a bar room brawl. Put them up against a 'take no prisoners' front row prop, and it was only a matter of time before the sin bin would be required to defuse the situation.

The by law flew through; then came the suits who had the law on their side, and deserved to be listened to, but this was the second round of the competition and the Mayor was determined to win at any cost.

There is nothing like a bit of niggle to distract the opposition, unless you are playing a team who know how to use the niggle to advantage.

Mayor Leach had free rein on the Radio, and in the press, where he was quoted profusely. He does give good quotes. He complains if the press criticises him, and is now complaining because they did quote him, accurately and often, which became ammunition for NZMCA to use in their case against the TCDC.

Chances to demonstrate problems caused by freedom campers were missed. These are minor stories to the media, but there are ways of getting coverage. Local coverage is a waste, it needs to be a national issue. You have to be 'on-side' to get this coverage.

There was no chance of working together with NZMCA to resolve the differences, they accept there is a problem with people pooing in the bushes on the side of the road, but say it's not their problem, and why should they be victimized because of it. They argue that their members spend a lot of money, of which there is little evidence.

NZMCA Members approached by council officers tend to react badly [leading to the name trailer trash] and when you're the one with the ticket book, [local body equivalent of the taser] and you have a choice, you tend to write rather then fight.

But in the end the NZMCA took TCDC to the High Court because they could not get their version of the bylaw through.
NZMCA say there are other ways to prosecute the people who poo in the woods, and there probably are, but the morose moteliers who see hordes of free parkers passing buy their $150 a night rooms and the bed and breakfast lot [ who don't pay any tourism levies ] are equally scornful. They just demand 'the council fix it'!

This is one time when “the previous council” of which you were a member, were no better at reading the Act and reading the various factional views, than the current lot. The bylaw reflected the demands of noisy residents, motel, backpackers, and campground operators, but ignored the shops who see 2000 camper vans as $10,000 worth of business. $3m a year. That’s a lot when you consider how few places there are to share it.

Properly managed this could be turned into a major revenue earner.

"The legality of the bylaw aside, if you can try to look at the issue
objectively are you not the least bit concerned about the way major
decisions are being made and the blatant misuse of power? Does this
happen with other decisions? I'd be interested in your thoughts on this particular issue alone."

James Imlach on Bill Barclays blog..

NZMCA seem to have collected a set of decisions by TCDC and comments by Leach which may individually not amount to much, but may collectively show the administration as less then perfect.

There is no doubt that freedom camping is allowed

Local Councils can make restrictions, but the difficulty is making any restriction stick. "I don't want freedom camping on Buffalo Beach" is difficult if not impossible to support.

and they have to follow the procedure

Which in this case, as in many others, may not have been 100%

They had a "consultation" last year which as far as I can tell was
included in a holiday brochure. This, as a proper consultation, will be ripped to shreds by the suits. So the problem, as well as a belligerent attitude against campers, and NZMCA, which I must say you share, is one of process.

I suspect the lawyer and Staff are seeking to 'do it right'.

While G "win at all costs" Leach risks the penalty.

Effectively the Act does not allow TCDC to do what a large number of
residents want.

The NZMCA want everything for their members, and have no concern about the thousands of un-contained vans.

The TCDC / Leach approach has failed.

This may be the one thing that upsets Leach, and dare I say it,
Goudie has a far better approach on this. She has been very quiet and
taken quite a few niggles, especially from Jack. This is one item where she knows what is required, and probably knows all the affected parties. We will never know why she was silent at the time the Freedom Camping Act was passed, perhaps she was told to shut up.

You can have consultation and ignore it, as they have done with
fluoride, although this leads to problems down the road.

We await the court decision which observers present for the two days of hearings are calling NZMCA's.

TCDC won't lose because of what they did, or what they intended, it's how they went about it, and quite a bit of who said what.


We could do better.

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Jeffares

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