Freedom Camping Bylaw – the Mayor challenged

Camping van 21 July 2019. A decision on Auckland Council’s proposed Freedom Camping bylaw has been deferred following what Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers is describing as a win for Auckland’s democracy.

Public consultation on the proposed Freedom Camping bylaw ran from 3 December to 18 February 2019 and public deliberations were held on 4 April, 29 May and 31 May 2019. The bylaw was going to the vote for ratification on 27 June 2019.

Cr Sayers has been leading a campaign saying that provision needed to made for reasonable freedom camping but the processes Auckland Council were using were unreasonable and unlawful.

Freedom camping is welcomed in Auckland he says, however, the proposal put forward by Council was not supported by the public nor by may reasonable freedom campers.

“I believed Auckland Council had predetermined the outcomes it wanted and public feedback was being ignored,” says Sayers. “That is wrong and I decided to stand-up and call the Mayor out on it.”

Sayers had twice written to the Mayor requesting the bylaw be deferred citing public feedback wanted the bylaw to be modified to exclude freedom camping from within currently protected public reserves and also from allowing unrestricted unlimited freedom camping on residential streets. There were numerous other sites which the public did support freedom camping at.

He said the process was also flawed because the Local Board’s across Auckland had been excluded from giving feedback on what freedom camping sites their communities felt were appropriate, or inappropriate, following public consultation.

The Mayor had responded to the letters rejecting Mr Sayers’ concerns and instead said he would support the Freedom Camping in Vehicles bylaw going to vote in late June.

“It was becoming a debacle,” says Sayers. “So I took to two pronged approach and gained the support from a majority of 11 of my councillor colleagues to defeat the Mayor at the vote as well as presenting a legal opinion through a local ratepayers group.”

“This worked and the Mayor changed his mind,” says Sayers.

“We have heard the concerns raised by the community on this issue and I want the issue deferred until Council has got it right,” said Mayor Goff in a press release made on 19 June.

The legal opinion was commissioned by the Omaha Beach Community residents and ratepayers group which concluded the Auckland Council was acting unlawfully and that the group was prepared to file legal proceedings should the bylaw proceed in its current format.

Chair of the Bylaws Hearings Panel Linda Cooper said, “We have had a community group signal its intent for potential legal action against the proposed bylaw.”

“The Hearings Panel is using this time to get advice and complete our recommendations, before we report to the Governing Body.”

The new voting date for a modified Freedom Camping in Vehicles bylaw will now be rescheduled for early next year. The Hearings Panel comprised of Cr Penny Hulse and Cr Linda Cooper will meet 18 July 2019 make a recommendation on what changes will be presented to the Mayor and all 20 Councillors to vote on, including any legal requirements to re-consult the public on specific aspects of the proposed bylaw.