NZMCA to seek High Court ruling

How can a council that has effectively banned responsible camping throughout its district believe it is entitled to millions of dollars in funding which the Government has specifically earmarked for improving facilities for responsible campers?

That’s the question we asked in announcing that the NZMCA is to seek a High Court judicial review of Queenstown Lakes District Council’s latest attempt at a freedom camping bylaw. Our announcement, just prior to Christmas, followed a unanimous decision by QLDC councilors to roll over their existing prohibitive freedom camping bylaw. The government has invested over $3.6m in Queenstown’s public infrastructure and other resources to support responsible camping, however immediately after they received this funding, the council moved to effectively ban all freedom camping across the district. 

For example, QLDC requested money for two camping hubs and $2.4m for eight new public toilets which were meant to provide responsible camping sites and address problems with freedom camping at other sites. However, under Queenstown’s new freedom camping bylaw the hubs no longer permit responsible camping and the eight areas where the toilets are to be built also prohibit camping. 

I think there’s a very good case for clawback of the money the council has received to be redistributed to the neighbouring areas that will bear the brunt of Queenstown’s decision. In our view, the council has shown absolute contempt for proper process, resulting in a prohibitive bylaw that undermines their interagency responsible camping strategy and the Freedom Camping Act 2011. The Act required Queenstown to undertake a full review of their bylaw and the council also committed to undertaking district-wide site-by-site assessments as part of their strategy.

But the council clearly didn’t do that, they simply rolled over their existing bylaw and made it more prohibitive, without considering the impact on the vast majority of responsible campers. The whole review and consultation process felt like a complete sham, further evidenced by Mayor Jim Boult announcing a preference for a total ban and the council advertising in their summer communication to visitors the new prohibited areas, prior to concluding the review. And on top of that there’s absolutely no proportionality (as the Act requires) in a bylaw which effectively prohibits responsible camping throughout the district.

The Mayor has said himself that it’s only 10 per cent of visitors who cause all the problems but the council still wants to welcome the 90 per cent of responsible campers who are fine. That sentiment and proportionality is not reflected at all in the bylaw. 

Given QLDC’s contempt for the process they were required by law to fulfil – and the threat that poses to our members’ right camp responsibly – I believe we have no option other than to seek a ruling from the High Court.

The year ahead

One month into 2020 there’s already some exciting projects underway to ensure members get maximum benefit from belonging to the NZMCA. They include:

The IT upgrade

Stage one of the IT upgrade is now complete and operating well. We encourage members to go onto the website to check your membership and vehicle details are up to date. Meanwhile, work is getting underway on stage 2, which will integrate the Travel Directory and Motorhome Friendly site into the new website. 

This will be followed by, and developed at the same time as, a new NZMCA App which will incorporate the existing Travel App with a membership App including an electronic membership card.

CampSaver

Considerable work is being put in now in preparation for next season’s CampSaver program. The scheme, which offers members good-value, off-peak rates in commercial campgrounds throughout the country, generated positive feedback in its launch year and there’s already been an encouraging level of sign up by campgrounds keen to be part of year two. This bodes very well for a stronger CampSaver program in the coming off-season.

Kiwi Summer Road Trip

This summer we asked members to help us find New Zealand’s best ice cream, coffee, pies and fish and chips – and thanks to you we ended up with more than 1300 nominations. They came from a wide variety of locations and it was especially pleasing to see strong numbers of nominations in each category. Now it’s almost time for you to vote for the best of each category – and be in with a chance to win some of the great prizes on offer. Voting gets underway in February, so join in the fun by heading to our website and clicking on the Kiwi Summer Road Trip link.

Member engagement

We are in the process of planning a visit to every Area throughout the country to provide an overview of where the Association is heading and to hear from you, the membership. This will be the third time I have undertaken this journey, which will begin in the last week of July and run through until early end September. We will provide a full list of dates, times and venues in the next issue of The Motor Caravanner.

Motorhome Friendly

As the year develops we will be reviewing the Motorhome Friendly program to ensure it meets the changing needs of the organisation and our members. The current program has been a tremendous vehicle for us to enable members to feel welcome in what are now 54 Motorhome Friendly communities nationwide. However, as the responsible camping environment changes we need to look carefully at what needs changing, or done better, to ensure the program keeps on delivering for our members.

From the Chief Executive - Bruce Lochore


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