In relation to this proposal, NZMCA members are receiving updates and media releases from the FNDC purporting to support freedom camping and the intent of the FCA. We understand members are contemplating supporting this proposal. The NZMCA is following the issue very closely and I think it's important members understand the consequences of supporting the proposal as is. Given this is a public forum I'd like to make these comments without prejudice.
Whilst this may seem like a positive move by council, the reality is FNDC regulates freedom camping under three individual bylaws, which effectively prohibit freedom camping everywhere other than at 4 designated local authority areas (noting 1 of these areas has been closed by FNDC). And each of these designated areas permits a maximum 4 vehicles at any one time. This review, proposing 16 more areas, seeks to retain FNDC's designated sites approach, which the NZMCA firmly objects to.
Firstly, a designated sites approach is clearly inconsistent with the permissive intent and premise of the FCA. The council is intentionally avoiding the FCA route, and if their reasons are improper (which we suspect they are) then this proposal is unlawful.
Secondly, the latest officer reports to council confirm the Far North has no widespread issue with FC. In fact, it appears any issues are isolated to Paihia and Ramp Road (further north). On that basis we argue there is no need to maintain a district-wide prohibitive regime. Any review of their bylaws should consider whether or not it is appropriate to maintain a regime that regulates an activity in areas where problems don't exist.
Thirdly, we think their suite of bylaws has the substantive effect of a blanket ban, which is also unlawful. In the court case of NZMCA v TCDC, the judge noted that whether TCDC had unlawfully prohibited freedom camping in the district would depend on the cumulative effect of all of its bylaws regulating freedom camping, and whether, taken together, those bylaws amounted to an effective prohibition.
If you're preparing a submission I would suggest carefully considering how this proposal fits in with what the Assn is trying to achieve nationwide, i.e. nationally consistent bylaws in line with the intent of the FCA. I would also like to point out that local community groups and councillors approached us seeking motorhome friendly status. We have held very open and positive discussions with them and they know where the issues lie with the bylaws. They support a different approach than what is currently proposed, so it's a matter of constructively working through the hurdles.