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Freedom Camping: Good practice guide

Freedom Camping - Featured Image - LG March 2018

Following several summers of freedom camping pain across the country, LGNZ commissioned a Freedom Camping Good Practice Guide for the sector to learn from the good planning and case studies emerging around the country.

With the number of freedom campers hovering around 60,000 annually they are making an impact, particularly in popular tourism areas.
The Guide is being prepared by freedom camping expert and troubleshooter David Hammond from Hammond Robertson. We asked David what the main findings are that are emerging from the Guide.
David praises the innovation and solutions coming out of rural New Zealand councils, saying the sector needs to take note of how they are handling the issue of freedom camping. He highlights the following good practice emerging.

Central Otago District Council

Mat Begg, parks and recreation manager from Central Otago District Council, has provided multiple examples of good practice for the Guide in dealing with freedom camping. The council has an excellent partnership with Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) for the management of areas around Lake Dunstan.
LINZ and council coordinate to develop joint educational material and joint approaches to management of campers. LINZ also funds infrastructure on its land. Mat and the team have based their approach from the development of a Camping Strategy which took a broad view of camping and the various approaches the council can take before deciding on their strategy.
Mat’s team also survey freedom campers every three years to develop an understanding of their needs and habits.

South Taranaki District Council

Adrienne Cook, policy officer from South Taranaki District Council, and the wider council team provide more good practice for the Guide. Their Site Assessment in 2017 – which uses a scoring system for the three reasons in the Freedom Camping Act for restricting and prohibiting freedom camping – is a sea-shift in the methodology. It is clear and evidence-based.
Nelson City used an almost identical Site Assessment based off Adrienne’s work with some slight modification in later 2017. But Adrienne’s work remains the gold standard of the evidence basis needed for eventual bylaws. South Taranaki is also featured for the clarity of its information to freedom campers.

Selwyn District Council

Marie Gordon, parks policy analyst from Selwyn District Council, is putting together the strategic picture that management of freedom camping is part of the wider ‘destination management’ function. Marie is exploring a Camping Strategy that is more like a Destination Management Plan. Selwyn is also commended for the exceptional freedom camper survey the council undertook in 2017 on which it bases its planning.

Nelson City Council

Overall, the nation’s good practice in management of freedom camping is to follow the example of Nelson City Council and group manager community services Chris Ward and undertake a four-stage process of:

  1. Freedom Camping (or, Camping) Strategic Plan to establish the research basis, opportunity, options and range of regulatory and non-regulatory methods;
  2. Consultation with stakeholders;
  3. Detailed Site Assessment for every site (or a hot-spot approach) able to be parked overnight by self-contained, non-self-contained and tenting; and
  4. Development of the draft bylaw from these evidence 

The Freedom Camping Good Practice Guide will be released to the sector following its finalisation by David Hammond in early 2018.

This article was first published in the March 2018 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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