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Freedom Camping

By all reports, the Judicial Review was a 'lay-down misere' for the MCA, and our people were made to look pretty dammed stupid by the Mae Chen team.

There is little doubt that the decision which is due shortly will go strongly against TCDC - the Judge gave an almost unprecedented indication of just how he felt about it by already awarding partial costs to the MCA.

Leach's long standing objection to campers parking up in front of million dollar homes on Buffolo Beach seems to have caused more than a little mirth amongst those who have some inkling of the content of the Act. But Glenn has never let the contempt of others put him off, and apparently sat stolidly through the Hearing.

What is clear is that Ben Day's interpretation that our Council could just get away with closing the Peninsula, except for those spots listed in Schedule B was erroneous from the start. The subsequent effort to define exclusions (Schedule A) and then parsimoniously expand Schedule B, went down like a lead balloon. That little effort has probably cost Council hundreds of thousands, but I guess you could say that Day was simply reflecting Leach's (supported by Council, and me for that matter - I don't deny it!) prejudices. 

The situation is laid out clearly in the Katina Conomos Paper to the community Boards - I don't think that its content will change much before it goes to Council on 21 May. To read the Paper you will need to go through the tedious process of accessing the entire TCB Agenda, and go to Page 145 (see "Our Cunning Council!")

To summarise, Council needs to devise a bylaw to comply with Act this time that "permits freedom camping everywhere within 200m of a vehicle accessible area or the mean low-water springs line of any sea of harbour or within 200m of a formed road"

It may then only "make a bylaw restricting or prohibiting freedom camping if the bylaw is necessary for one or more of the following purposes as contained in Section 11 of the Act."

  • To protect the area
  • To protect the health and safety of people who may visit the area; or
  • To protect access to the area.

That is pretty dammed restrictive, and means that a Council cannot justify a bylaw on the basis that it is needed for areas because of:

  • Visual impacts (private views are nor legally enforceable), or
  • Loss of revenue for commercial or camping ground operators, or
  • The costs of enforcing restrictions (hiring enforcement personnel to monitor areas)

In effect, these restrictive elements make our current bylaw unenforceable, and our novel schedules  unreasonably prohibitive, especially concerning sites made available for freedom camping. 

The bylaw is now to be reviewed "from scratch"!

At this point, I lay my sword on the ground, and offer James Imlay from the MCA my unconditional surrender - he was right and I was wrong. I will know better in the future not to accept anything that Ben Day lays before Council - his inexperience, and lack of legal nous was exposed in full during this process, and I confess to having been taken in by it. But in his defence, I understood that Brookfields checked every move - if that is the case, it does not reflect well on them.

I think even James will accept that we have a particular problem in this District (reflected in a few others cases including Lakes, Taupo and West Coast - all of whom waited in the wings to see how we would go in Hamilton) that must be addressed in a manner that is satisfactory to all concerned. The objective must be primarily to control those unserviced vehicles that are hired to mainly younger travellers by irresponsible hirers - based mainly at Auckland Airport. These hirers have proved totally resistant to any attempt to have them exercise restraint in regard to the hire of this type of vehicle, and we on the Coromandel are in the first-up firing line for the consequential actions of their customers. 

But distinguishing the target group from the serviced and mainly responsible group has proven extremely difficult, and we are left with having to establish 'no-go' areas (within the law!) that will apply to all campers. That is the bottom line.

The next task will be to establish those sites that can be restricted with the extremely tight guidelines laid down in the Act, and every Board has now been tasked with that review. Council will consider the new lists that come forward from Boards at its meeting on 21 May, and consultation will proceed until 27 June. Council is expected to adopt its new bylaw on 13 August. This is a tight time-line, and I suspect that it will be called into question by the MCA, so our people had better get it entirely intra-vires if they are to avoid another challenge.

The vulnerability in this regard was well demonstrated on Monday when the TCB decided to Workshop its sites to take to Council on 21 May, but failed to recognise the need to have an Extraordinary General Meeting immediately to accept the Workshop recommendation before going to Council - that alone could have provided grounds for a later appeal. When I raised this with the Chair and Area Manager, it was immediately decided to call such a meeting to follow the Workshop - a close shave!

Everything else that has been done in the past in regard to consultation and consequential scheduling must now be ignored as we start the process all over - clearly there are likely to be far fewer sites where restrictions can be applied than was the case previously. In addition, and if I am not mistaken, substantial fines will need to be rebated, along with the legal costs that are likely to be several hundred thousand before this is all over.

What a mess!




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Reader Comments (1)

Remember the"'Can Do" political slogan this lot got elected on while pandering to the anti motor home lobby?

Pity they left off the other half of the Placemakers jingle - the "know How" part.

As a result they 'couldn't do' as they 'didn't know how'!

I think this Council should go down as The Omnipresent Politically Incompetent Lala Land Yobbo's - or TOPICALLY for short.

Unfortunately, people will just grasp the next political jingle these guys present - typical of an 'advertising age I suppose.

Consequently, nothing will be learnt from this exercise apart from confirmation that accountability will never apply to the king-makers in this community.

May 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJingle jangle

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