Proposed replacement Freedom Camping Bylaw 2021

We’re proposing changes to our Freedom Camping Bylaw, and want to hear what you think. The bylaw aims to balance freedom camping opportunities with necessary limitations to ensure our areas are protected.

Project status: Open for feedback
Open for feedback: 17th May 2021 - 21st June 2021

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Proposed replacement Freedom Camping Bylaw 2021

This statement of proposal is prepared under section 11(5) of the Freedom Camping Act 2011, and section 86 of the Local Government Act 2002. 

National consultation on freedom camping changes

The Government has proposed changes to how freedom camping is managed in New Zealand. This may lead to changes to the Freedom Camping Act 2011 and to freedom camping bylaws.  Any changes to the Act are not likely to be finalised for some time. This is a separate process to the Council’s bylaw review.

We are required under the current Act to review our bylaw, or it will lapse.  It’s important that we carry on with the review process so that we continue to have a bylaw to manage freedom camping. 

Legislative requirements

Under Government legislation, a council must be satisfied that a bylaw is necessary to protect an area; the health and safety of people who may visit the area; or access to an area.  It must also be satisfied that the bylaw is the most appropriate and proportionate way of addressing the problems; and that it is not inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.  This is set out in section 11 of the Freedom Camping Act.

The bylaw must be reviewed within five years of first being made, and a council must consult after the review, whether it is proposing changes to the bylaw or not.  This is set out in section 13 of the Freedom Camping Act. Our bylaw has been reviewed, and we are recommending some changes through this consultation process.

For information on how the legislative requirements are being met, other than in this Statement of Proposal, refer to the report considered at the Council’s 28 April 2021 Community Resilience and Sustainability Committee meeting. The report considered at that meeting sets out the decision-making matters for the Committee, and includes a review report with the information needed to meet legislative requirements, including area assessments.

Even though our bylaw is working well, we are recommending some improvements, and are consulting on these changes.

Our bylaw was made under the Freedom Camping Act 2011.  We now need to do a review of the bylaw as it has been in place for five years.  We amended the bylaw in 2016 and 2018, but neither of these amendments were considered a review. 

Summary of proposed bylaw changes

Here is a summary of the changes.

We are:

  • Updating the definition of “certified self-contained vehicle” to reflect the amendment to the Standard (NZS 5465:2001) in 2017
  • Adding a clause to prevent campers from setting-up their camp in a way that blocks thoroughfares
  • Improving the process to temporarily waive or modify parts of the bylaw to enable camping for organised events
  •  Adding a new prohibited freedom camping area at North Beach Car Park, New Brighton, to enable better public access for weekend events and beach access over the warmer months
  • Creating a new zone, the City Coastal Restricted Zone, where camping in self-contained vehicles would be allowed for up to four nights in any 30-day period, with no more than two nights in any place
  • Changing how we manage freedom camping at Te Nukutai o Tapoa Naval Point marine and recreation area in Lyttelton to enable better public access
  • Improving the description and map of the prohibited area at Windsport Park, near the Avon-Heathcote Estuary / Te Ihutai.

Current bylaw restrictions

Our Freedom Camping Bylaw is available at ccc.govt.nz/bylaws.  An interactive map showing all the areas where freedom camping restrictions or prohibitions apply can be viewed at ccc.govt.nz/camping 

The Freedom Camping Act 2011 enabled freedom camping on all council land (unless a bylaw or another law prohibits it), and gave councils limited powers for bylaw-making to regulate freedom camping. 

Councils can only make bylaws to control freedom camping within the powers set out in the Freedom Camping Act. This means any bylaw controls must be necessary, appropriate and proportionate, and must not absolutely prohibit freedom camping (sections 11 and 12 of the Freedom Camping Act 2011).

We have some areas in our district where freedom camping is prohibited, meaning it is not allowed at all. There are other areas where freedom camping is restricted, meaning people can camp in self-contained vehicles for up to two nights within any 30-day period, but cannot stay within 500 metres of a place they have previously stayed. Both prohibited and restricted areas are set out in the bylaw.

The bylaw also requires that all freedom camping is in certified self-contained vehicles, so that campers have their own facilities on board. Anyone not certified as self-contained should stay at a camping ground.

Areas not defined as prohibited or restricted are available for self-contained freedom camping.

Proposed bylaw changes in more detail

We are updating the definition of “certified self-contained vehicle” to reflect an amendment to the Standard (NZS 5465:2001 A2).        

  • The self-containment standard sets the process and requirements for independent qualified assessors to be able to certify camping vehicles.  Self-containment is then demonstrated by the display of a warrant card in the front windscreen, and a certificate which must be carried in the vehicle. We rely on the certification process to ensure camping vehicles are appropriately self-contained.
  • The 2017 amendment to the Standard introduced a requirement to ensure on-board toilets in camping vehicles are accessible when the bed is made up, with sufficient head and elbow room. The certification sets out the number of occupants the vehicle is certified for. The proposed definition has been updated to reflect these things.

 Adding a clause to prevent campers from setting-up in a way that blocks thoroughfares

  • The new clause would prevent freedom campers from setting up their camping vehicle or camping equipment in a way that limits the normal movement of vehicles or pedestrians, or otherwise blocks a thoroughfare.
  •  Public areas where freedom camping is allowed (e.g. busy car parks) are not intended to accommodate traditional camping set-ups – these are better suited to camping grounds.
  • Some smaller vans, for example, need to have the boot open to use the built-in kitchen, and this creates a safety issue if it’s opening into a car park where vehicles need to manoeuvre, or if it encroaches onto the road. Tables, chairs, awnings or washing lines from freedom campers should not be set-up in a way that blocks people from walking through an area or along a pathway.
  • This proposed clause complements an existing clause to prevent overcrowding, which allows only one vehicle per marked parking space. It supports better public access and protects the health and safety of people who may visit the area.

We are improving the process to temporarily waive or modify parts of the bylaw to enable camping for organised events.

o   The bylaw enables our Chief Executive to respond to applications to waive or modify the bylaw to temporarily allow camping where it is not normally allowed. 

  • The enabling of organised events was the intention when the clause was added after consultation on the bylaw in 2015, but this was not clearly reflected in the clause.
  • The proposed replacement clauses now refer to organised events (giving examples, such as school, club, marae or sporting events), and the application requirements have been updated to support this and the intention of the bylaw.

We are proposing a new prohibited freedom camping area at North Beach Car Park, New Brighton, to enable better public access.  This would replace the current temporary ban with a permanent ban.

  • The permanent ban would apply from 7pm Fridays until 7pm Sundays, between 1 October and 1 May each year.  This will enable better public access to the car park for weekend events and beach access during the warmer months, when there is high demand for parking.
  • This area is currently closed to freedom camping at weekends during the surf lifesaving season. It was temporarily closed by the Chief Executive using a power in the bylaw in February 2020 to enable better public access, and in response to community concerns.
  • The car park services both the surf lifesaving club and the community hall, along with providing access to the beach and park. It is a popular site for freedom camping, and the car park is very busy at weekends. Shorter turnaround of car parking is needed for better public access to facilities, club activities and the beach.
  • The dates align with the surf lifesaving season, which generally runs from Labour weekend until Easter weekend. The dates change each year, so the proposal is to specify dates, so that it is easy to understand and signs do not need to be updated (1 October to 1 May each year).

We are creating a new zone, the City Coastal Restricted Zone, where camping in self-contained vehicles would be allowed for up to four nights in any 30-day period, with no more than two nights in any location.

  • Under the current bylaw a person in a certified self-contained vehicle can freedom camp in a restricted area for up to two nights within a 30-day period, but not within 500m of a location they have stayed at within that time.  This is to encourage people to move on, and so that the impacts from freedom camping are not concentrated in an area or on a community.  It applies in areas identified as needing some protections (restricted areas).
  • The coastal area is attractive for freedom campers because of its proximity to the beach and surf. There are some freedom campers who regularly freedom camp, and know to move on after two days, but are remaining in the area for an extended period of time.  Marine Parade is over 6km long, and under the current bylaw, a person could camp for two nights, move 500m, camp for a further two nights, and repeat, remaining in the area for 24 nights without breaching the bylaw. This is not what was intended.  The impact of this practice is greater when it is a community of campers that regularly move around the same area.
  • The proposed zone will help to manage the number of freedom campers remaining in the area for extended periods of time, and contribute to better protecting the area, and access to the area for all users.
  • The proposed City Coastal Restricted Zone would include all Council owned and / or managed land between the eastern coastline of the city, and the following area: Beach Road to the north, along Bower Avenue to the west, and from the Wainoni Road Bridge along the eastern side of the Ōtakaro Avon River to the Avon-Heathcote Estuary / Te Ihutai, and including Southshore Spit.  The prohibited areas within this zone would remain (noting that camping is already prohibited in reserves by the Parks and Reserves Bylaw).

Changing how we manage freedom camping at Te Nukutai o Tapoa Naval Point marine and recreation area in Lyttelton

  • We are proposing to limit the location and the number of parks where freedom camping can occur at the Naval Point site.
  • People in certified self-contained vehicles would be able stay for up to two nights in a specified part of the car park, enabling about 18 camping vehicles per night.  Camping would be prohibited in the rest of the area.
  • There are currently no limits on the number of freedom camping vehicles each night, or on where they stay at the Naval Point site. 
  • The Naval Point Development Plan was adopted in November 2020. How the site is configured and used will change as the Plan is implemented. 
  • The site has been very popular with freedom campers, and an unlimited number of camping vehicles is no longer appropriate. The upcoming upgrade of the area means it is likely to continue to be popular, so some controls are now necessary.
  • This will enable better access to the area by balancing the needs of recreational, club and other users (such as the coast guard), with some space set aside for freedom camping.

We are improving the description and map of the prohibited area at Windsport Park, near the Avon-Heathcote Estuary / Te Ihutai.

  • The description and map have been updated to better reflect where people are likely to camp, including extending it slightly to the north east.
  • Windsport Park is located on the eastern shore of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary / Te Ihutai, between Humphrey’s Drive, Linwood Paddocks, and the estuary.  It is relatively isolated, near the water, and is popular with wind sport enthusiasts.  In 2016 it became a hot spot for freedom campers, resulting in an amendment to the bylaw to make it a prohibited area. This was to protect the area, access to the area, and the health and safety of visitors to the area.

Other options considered

We have looked at different options for managing freedom camping, and believe that this set of proposals to improve and update our bylaw is the best approach to reducing impacts and better managing freedom camping in our district.

For more information on the options, refer to the report considered(external link) at the Council’s Sustainability and Community Resilience Committee meeting on 28 April 2021.

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Hearings

Hearings are planned for September (subject to change). 

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Who to contact

Sam Sharland,
Engagement Advisor

How the decision is made

  • Open for feedback