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Camping bylaw draconian, elitest

Opinion Piece

by Ieme de Wolf

Ieme de Wolf

“Freedom” camping?

The following are questions and observations put to the council regarding its “Freedom” Camping bylaw.

The Freedom Camping “survey” was skewed — it had a predetermined agenda, leading questions and no opportunity for input. It also had a very low response rate, 341 respondents.

Where is the social impact research/data? Who is impacted by changes and how? Are changes measured? Where is the environmental research/data? What was the baseline? What is the council trying to achieve? Has the long-term impact been considered?

Also, what is the economic impact of this proposal? Was the business community consulted? Local industry research shows a reliance on itinerant or seasonal workers, often skilled, sometimes living in vehicles. They maintain farms, plant, prune and harvest, and provide tourism and volunteer services. Backpackers bring qualifications, skills and motivation to work. How does the council propose to fill the void when these workers are excluded from our region?

There is also an impact on lifestyles. Dear reader, have you been freedom camping in a tent or non-self-contained vehicle? Why change the quintessential affordable Kiwi holiday? Hop in the car and pull up somewhere for a play/swim/rest.

Is this a plan by some to ban “Freedom” Camping for all? How many of us can afford a self-contained vehicle?

Maybe the council could invest in services like more restrooms, rubbish collection, etc — otherwise the problems will not go away, even under this draconian new bylaw.

The proposed “Freedom” Camping Bylaw is elitist. If you can afford a self-contained vehicle, GDC welcomes you. If not, don’t bother.

The proposed Freedom Camping Bylaw discriminates. It makes unjustified distinctions between human beings based on whether they can afford a self-contained vehicle or not.

It can also be described as racist, as it further marginalises a group of people who are already marginalised.

Without camping, what holiday options are left for those on low incomes?

A paragraph from the “Freedom” Camping Bylaw: “4.3. There are issues surrounding freedom camping such as the homeless and itinerant or seasonal workers living in vehicles, which are beyond the scope of a Freedom Camping Bylaw to address. These issues have wider economic and social origins and while the Freedom Camping Act 2011 contributes to these issues, the Freedom Camping Bylaw is not a capable nor suitable mechanism for managing them.”

Why introduce a new bylaw when you acknowledge you can’t even deal with the issues under the existing law? Yet, the people mentioned in this paragraph are legally impacted by this proposed bylaw.

We need to acknowledge that some people’s cars are their homes. This bylaw makes their stay unlawful. Will GDC fine, prosecute and pursue them through the courts if they are unable to comply/pay?

I believe the council has obligations under the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Article 12 — No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

How does GDC make the distinction between/or identify people living in cars and travelling in non-self-contained vehicles? Apparently enforcement officers “know” everyone. Seriously? Who makes the decision who is “homeless” or living in their car? How would the enforcement officer prove this in a court of law?

This is an ill-considered bylaw. Protect our Kiwi holidays, and the dignity and mana of homeless people; support local industries and organisations. Protect GDC, its staff, councillors and our rates from potential litigation. Stop elitism, discrimination and racism.

I have asked the attending councillors to be champions for human rights and ratepayers, and vote against this “Freedom” Camping Bylaw.

  1. Bob Osborne, Responsible Campers Association Inc says:

    Well written – all issues that the Responsible Campers Association have been highlighting for years. Can I ask where is the evidence that non-certified, self-contained campers are any more of a health risk than those self-contained but with certification? (Ministry of Health have none…) – Self-contained being the basic ability to retain/manage waste. Of course, any restriction on a right has to be justified in a free and democratic society, as well as being as least intrusive on the ‘right’ to meet the desired outcome – which must be for reasons defined in the FC Act (echoed from BORA). Councils are on very dangerous ground attempting to use NZS;5465 to restrict camping.

  2. Leon, Wellington says:

    Camping or freedom camping is not just there for the homeless or the more affordable vehicles. My personal tradition comes from many generations of outdoor living and life. For some of us this is part of our culture and we are explorers by tradition. We like to travel and see our country, as well as supporting other countries. In other words I see this as a problem that govt/councils created by trying to take away our freedom and discriminate against our traditions.

  3. Paul from Pukekohe says:

    Thanks Ieme – spot on. My family and I love visiting Gisborne in our motorhome. Gisborne businesses take note – we, like many others, choose not to visit regions whose councils who do not support freedom camping. Domestic tourism is more important than ever. Please do not go down the Queenstown, Picton, Marlborough route. Please look past the screaming headlines of dirty freedom campers – sometimes campground owners have a large sway on councils, our media, and current government. See you soon and keep Kiwi road trips affordable for our kids.