WDC reflects on its own camping law

The new freedom camping law passed by the Government has been welcomed by the Waitaki District Council, but it still has to decide what to do with a bylaw it prepared earlier this year.

The council went through the process to introduce the bylaw, including asking what the public thought, but put it on hold when the Government announced it was introducing the Freedom Camping Bill to implement national legislation before the tourist influx for the Rugby World Cup.

That has now been passed and the council's policy manager, Fraser Liggett, said it had been "carefully tracking the passage of the legislation" over the last couple of months.

During this time, the council had further discussions with groups involved in tourism in the district, as well as Local Government New Zealand.

These discussions had highlighted a range of tools to better manage the effect of freedom camping in the district, which councillors would consider at their meeting on Tuesday.

Councillors would also be asked at the meeting to approve policies to mitigate the effect of freedom camping.

These could include developing campaigns to discourage dumping, as well as educating and informing visitors to encourage positive behaviour and camping in approved sites.

Instant fines could be issued for causing damage, depositing rubbish or waste and failing to leave an area when required to do so.

Subject to the effectiveness of those measures, the council would retain the option of introducing its freedom camping bylaw.

The second option, which was not recommended, was to go ahead and adopt the bylaw.

Mr Liggett said now the Government had passed the legislation, councillors would be in a better position to consider the most appropriate option for Waitaki to manage the effects of freedom camping in a "sustainable, cost-effective way".

It was important during the Rugby World Cup, he said.

However, community feedback on the issue in May indicated Waitaki residents and businesses wanted a long-term cost-effective response which addressed the worst offenders but did not penalise responsible campers and visitors, Mr Liggett said.



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