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NZMCA seeks to quash Freedom Camping bylaw

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
NZMCA seeks to quash Freedom Camping bylaw

The New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) is taking a local body to the High Court in a bid to protect the rights of its members to freedom camp.

The NZMCA will seek to have Westland District Council’s Freedom Camping bylaw quashed when New Zealand public and employment law specialists Chen Palmer file papers with the High Court in Greymouth on Monday.

In announcing the legal challenge, NZMCA General Manager Bruce Lochore said the Westland District Council has adopted an ‘overly restrictive Freedom Camping Bylaw in breach of the Freedom Camping Act’. "That’s a view shared by the Westland District Council’s own Strategy Committee, which recommended a number of changes to the Draft Policy and Bylaw," said Mr Lochore."However, the council opted to ignore the Strategy Committee’s recommendations - even with the knowledge the NZMCA would seek a judicial review to have the bylaw quashed if it went ahead."

Mr Lochore explained that in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup, councils sought to have a mechanism to deal with the worst offending freedom campers. "The Government gave them the Freedom Camping Act which allowed them to ban or restrict freedom camping in certain areas and the ability to issue fines. The Government also ensured the rights of every Kiwi who freedom camps responsibly are secured by making councils identify specific sites they want banned and justifying those decisions."

During Parliamentary debates on the issue, Kate Wilkinson (Minister of Conservation) said: "The Act is pro-camping and local authorities are expected to take a permissive approach."

"However, the Westland District Council has effectively imposed a prohibition on freedom camping on all public land and roads within 1km of the boundary of all townships and settlements," said Mr Lochore."In doing so they have ignored their obligations to adequately assess any perceived issues and consider alternative measures which may be appropriate and proportionate to the issue."

Chen Palmer will also present a number of other breaches the WDC has committed in creating the bylaw.

Mr Lochore stated the NZMCA is bitterly disappointed to have been forced to take this action: "We have committed considerable expertise and resources to councils over the past months and have demonstrated our willingness to work with them. But we will not sit back and have the rights of our members to responsibly freedom camp stomped on by any council."

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