Roughly: Marlborough continues seek for center floor on freedom tenting

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A panel tasked with reviewing Marlborough’s freedom camping rules is stuck between a rock and a hard place, with some Marlburians wanting fewer restrictions and some more.

Marlborough Borough Council received nearly 90 submissions on its latest attempt at responsible camping statutes after its latest was challenged by caravaners in the High Court, with 19 submissions heard by the panel on Monday.

The council appointed Commissioner Martin Williams – a Hawke’s Bay councilor with experience in resource management and local government law – to chair the panel. Alongside Williams, Marlborough Mayor John Leggett and Deputy Mayor Nadine Taylor will review the filings and make recommendations to Council on the draft bylaws.

The council’s 2020 statute, which was challenged by the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, closed eight of the council’s 13 sites, leaving Wynen Street car park in Blenheim. the Taylor River Dam; the Renwick Domain; Lake Elterwater Reserve (in Ward); and the Wairau bypass. Freedom camping was banned everywhere else in the region. The statute also stipulates that vehicles must be self-contained.

CONTINUE READING:
* Council did not properly consult in passing the Freedom Camping Statute and Judges Rules
*Councils may be given time to adapt to the new national freedom camping rules
* Caravaners fear the “end of freedom camping as we know it”

The 2022 draft bylaws would retain the council’s five remaining locations, increase the capacity of the Renwick Domain from 10 vehicles per night to 20, and add three more locations.

The three proposed locations were the Blairich Reservation in the Awatere Valley, Opouri Rd in the Rai Valley, and the Wash Bridge Recreation Reserve on State Highway 63.

Freedom campers parked in Koromiko, near Picton, in 2016.  Freedom campers in Marlborough are now required to have certified self-contained vehicles.

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Freedom campers parked in Koromiko, near Picton, in 2016. Freedom campers in Marlborough are now required to have certified self-contained vehicles.

It proposed allowing tents on the Blairich Reserve, specifically for cycle tourism. The 2022 regulation also requires vehicles to be self-contained.

As part of the 2022 bylaw, area assessments identified five additional sites that could be suitable for freedom camping. They were located in the Awatere Valley, the Wairau Plains, the Wairau Valley, the Waihopai Valley, and the Southern Valleys.

These were not yet ready to be included in the statutes. If that were the case, an amendment to the 2022 Articles of Association would be publicly announced. In the meantime, camping would be banned in these areas.

Cynthia Brooks, Wairau-Awatere County Councillor, has called for a vacant campsite at Renwick dog park - saying it could help nearby wineries.

Scott Hammond/Stuff

Cynthia Brooks, Wairau-Awatere County Councillor, has called for a vacant campsite at Renwick dog park – saying it could help nearby wineries.

Wairau-Awatere Local Councilor Cynthia Brooks spoke to her bill on Monday, calling for an additional site at Renwick Dog Park – which she hoped would bring business to nearby basement doors.

“I think it’s time to rethink the thinking about this activity on MDC land,” Brooks said.

Meanwhile, Chris Faulls, husband of Marlborough Sounds councilor Barbara Faulls, questioned why taxpayers were subsidizing travelers who had “little benefit” to the region.

Faulls, who owned a commercial campsite, said he supports the 2020 constitution in general and was “not impressed” with the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association’s “eligibility”.

Chris and Barbara Faulls own a commercial campground in Linkwater.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

Chris and Barbara Faulls own a commercial campground in Linkwater.

Rai Valley resident Diane Payton told the panel she was concerned by the council’s proposal to allow free camping on Opouri Rd – either in the Carluke Domain or on the roadside adjacent to the Domain.

Payton said they have “impromptu” events at the hall, including funerals, weddings, school groups and students, and events like the A&P Show.

“Our concern is that the community is jointly maintaining and developing this domain and if the freedom campers are placed there it will have a huge impact on usage and not be to the benefit of the community.”

She said sometimes people camped there overnight — and used the hall kitchen — but they always knew when that happened.

“We would like the Council to think about it [to] other options that are not as intrusive to our community.”​

Simon Gaines, director of Lundons Law, was representing residents of Double Bay, a vacant campground that the council has closed under the 2020 Bylaws.

Double Bay residents Kathryn Omond and Maggie Curteis asked city councilors in 2020 to close the bay’s grounds.

Local residents said it wasn't uncommon to find human waste in their gardens, although there is a public toilet at Double Bay's now-closed Freedom campground.

BRYA INGRAM/MATERIAL

Local residents said it wasn’t uncommon to find human waste in their gardens, although there is a public toilet at Double Bay’s now-closed Freedom campground.

Gaines said many of the residents are taxpayers who moved to the Bay for a quiet life.

James Imlach, national property and policy manager for the New Zealand Motor Camp Association, said they don’t see themselves as an “outside group” coming to Marlborough and asking for something.

The association had more than 110,000 members, including 4000 in Marlborough, and had signaled it wanted more freedom camping opportunities in its own community.

Imlach told the panel they felt the council was making mistakes similar to those made when developing the 2020 statute.

The association thought the analysis or area ratings were “poor” and argued it was unnecessary to ban free camping in most parts of the region and disproportionate to the perceived problems in Marlborough, Imlach said.

He said in Double Bay the council should “open the door” to at least restrictions and not a total ban on free camping on the site.

“I used Double Bay because I think it’s a good example of where the Council has followed the wrong process here and hasn’t really followed what it thinks are alternative ways of solving the issues.”

Marlborough Borough Council is proposing to open three new liberty campgrounds.

SCOTT Hammond/stuff

Marlborough District Council is proposing to open three new Freedom campsites.

Blenheim residents Robert and Brenda Burr, who have traveled extensively in their RV, supported all of the recommendations in the draft charter.

“But we still believe there is an opportunity to review some sites that are still restricted,” Robert Burr said.

The couple said they spent $651 on food, clothing and fuel over the weekend in Motueka while out and about.

Although not always “that much,” it showed campervan drivers spending money on the road, he said.

Martin Ridgway, a 17-year-old housemate at Blenheim, told the panel he would like more opportunities to access campsites closer to home.

He said despite “some improvements” the draft statutes are “still too prohibitively expensive”.

“The bill still takes the blanket rule approach that bans free camping in all municipal areas except for a handful of designated locations, which is disproportionate to the size of the county,” he said.

The new statutes for 2022 are to be adopted and come into force from May 2022.