Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Council to pitch freedom camping recommendation

Freedom camping along a popular part of Christchurch’s coastline will become more restricted under proposed changes to the city’s Freedom Camping Bylaw, Christchurch Council said in a statement today.

Christchurch City Council staff will bring a report to next week’s Sustainability and Community Resilience Committee which recommends that Council begin consulting the public about making changes to the existing freedom camping bylaw.

The bylaw has been in place for five years and a review is required by legislation. 

“Generally, the bylaw’s been working well, but there are some areas where improvements are being proposed,” says Council Head of Strategic Policy, Emma Davis.

“Amendments to the bylaw in recent years have helped to get our settings about right. But there are some areas where things have changed, or the community has raised concerns, so we’re recommending some further adjustments.”

One area for change is the city’s coastal area, which is popular because of its access to the beach and surf. Two changes are proposed. One is to ensure good access for car parking during weekends. The other is to prevent campers from staying in the area for long periods.

“The car park at North Beach is really busy over summer. Families bring their children for surf lifesaving training, there are events at the community hall, and there’s a really popular coffee cart. Freedom camping activities were limiting parking access for other users, so last year we put a temporary freedom camping ban in place at weekends during the surf lifesaving season,’’ says Ms Davis.

“This has worked really well, with most campers leaving the car park for other users at weekends, so we’re now proposing altering the bylaw to make the ban permanent.” 

To help manage issues in the coastal area, a new restricted zone – the City Coastal Restricted Zone – is also proposed.

Under the existing bylaw, campers in certified self-contained vehicles can stay by the coast for up to two nights in a 30-day period, but can’t camp within 500 metres of where they have previously stayed. Some campers are staying in the area for an extended period of time by moving short distances every few nights, using the 500 metre rule.  

Under the new proposal, camping in self-contained vehicles would still be allowed, and the maximum stay would be four nights in a 30-day period in the new zone.  Campers would still need to move after two nights, and could go somewhere else in the zone for a further two nights. 

The zone would run from Beach Road at Waimairi Beach in the north, down to Southshore Spit, using Bower Ave and the river as the inland boundary.

“The proposed new City Coastal Restricted Zone will reduce the number of freedom campers remaining in the area for extended periods and contribute to better protecting the area and the local community from the impacts of freedom camping,’’ Ms Davis says.

Read the report on the proposed changes to the Freedom Camping Bylaw.

At the same time as the Council is proposing local freedom camping changes, the Government has been proposing national changes. The Government proposals are likely to lead to changes to the Freedom Camping Act, but are not expected to be finalised for some time.

“This is a separate process to the Council’s bylaw review”, says Ms Davis.

“It’s important that we continue the process to review our bylaw, or the bylaw will lapse, leaving us with no bylaw to manage freedom camping. There’s strong public support for the bylaw, so we don’t want that to happen.” 

The Council’s bylaw process will be completed before changes to the Freedom Camping Act are finalised.

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