Freedom Campers could invade Piha under proposed new Council Rules !
From Waitakere Ranges Local Board Member Sandra Coney: See submission help at bottom.
Freedom camping in the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area
Piha, Te Henga, Karekare, Anawhata, Huia, Manukau Harbour edge
Auckland Council has introduced a new draft Freedom Camping Bylaw for the Auckland region. It is consulting on this until midnight Sunday 5 December 2021.
You can have your say by filling in an online feedback form (cut and paste in browser):
You can also register to give verbal feedback to a Bylaw Panel at a Have Your Say online session.
Having your say is important if you believe that the much expanded freedom camping that would be brought in by this bylaw will affect you or the places you love. This is intended as a summary but you can find detail by following the online link above.
Why a new bylaw?
The Freedom Camping Act 2011 was passed before the Rugby World Cup to require local authorities (incl Auckland Council and Auckland Transport) to expand the number of places where freedom camping can happen.
The Act says a local authority can prohibit or restrict freedom camping:
- To protect an area
- To protect the health and safety of people who visit the area
- To protect access to the area.
The Act says a local authority may appoint warranted “enforcement officers” to enforce the Act and issue fines etc.
The Council’s existing bylaw (2015) takes the opposite approach and designates places where freedom camping can take place and prohibits everywhere else. The new bylaw makes Council-owned land everywhere in the region available for freedom camping with the following exceptions:
- Land held under the Reserves Act – this covers most local parks
- All regional parks
- Places specifically “prohibited” or “restricted” which are listed in the bylaw. There are only 3 prohibited places specified in the draft bylaw for Waitakere Ranges – Lopdell grounds, Sandys Parade (Laingholm), entrance to Goldies Bush, Te Henga.
This means that freedom camping can occur in the following places
- Any road reserve, pull-off space or parking area in the road reserve
- Parks and land held under the Local Government Act.
Attempts to get officers and councillors to include more areas in the Waitakeres as prohibited have so far failed, as officers have argued there must be “proof” that freedom camping is harmful or a nuisance in the particular place.
This is difficult when freedom camping cannot currently occur at most of the “at risk” places and actions have been taken to keep it that way. For example, at North Piha there are sandwich board signs saying no camping and residents have played a part in moving people along.
This is the biggest change from the old bylaw and is a particular problem for the Waitakere Ranges, where road reserves run alongside parkland and there are many informal lay-bys, pull off areas, road ends and parking areas which could be used for freedom camping.
Examples of these:
- All the roadside beachfront carparks at Piha and North Piha (except for regional park carpark at far end N Piha Road and Les Waygood carpark)
- Ends of Glen Esk, Log Race, Te Ahuahu, Garden and Anawhata Roads. Basically, anywhere the road ends informally, adjoining parkland.
- Pull off areas at track entrances and on road sides.
- Roadside at Claude Abel Reserve (Garden Road)
- Note: Roads within regional parks eg Pine Avenue at Cornwallis, are often part of the park and so not available for freedom camping.
Parks held under the LGA
Unfortunately the Council cannot provide a list of reserves/parks in the area held under the Local Government Act. At Piha, the former Ministry of Education area at 42 Seaview Road is held under the LGA and could be used for freedom camping unless it is prohibited.
Rules for freedom camping in the proposed bylaw
Freedom camping must be in a self-contained vehicle.
Campers can stay two nights in any one place, including the days between. This means a vehicle could arrive on a Friday morning, stay all day Friday and Saturday, and both nights, and leave by 9 am Sunday morning.
Issues for the Waitakere Ranges
Camping could take place in some of our most fragile eco-systems that are prone to damage and harm from rubbish, trampling, introduction of pests, spread of kauri dieback, and pet animals. People are currently discouraged from going off track and many tracks are closed because of kauri dieback; they are also asked not to go off accessways through dune areas because dune plants are fragile and birds nest on the ground, however, freedom camping could bring people into these areas.
There is also a risk from campers lighting fires when our Ranges are highly prone to difficult-to-fight wildfires.
Campervans can also be large vehicles that do not “fit” within some of our rural and coastal roads. Drivers are often strangers to the area and ignore or do not understand height restriction road signs. This is particularly the case at Piha where limbs have been removed from pohutukawa in Beach Valley Road following strikes by campervans, and Karekare, where a highly valued pohutukawa extends at a low height over Karekare Road, the entrance to the beach.
The Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008 seeks to protect the natural values and wilderness of the Ranges. It also seeks for the built environment to be subservient to the natural environment and for the dark and quiet to be protected. While large numbers of day visitors visit the coast on summer holidays and weekends, at other times these places retain their remoteness and wilderness.
Freedom camping will allow a built structure and domestic activities (watching TV etc) to intrude into the wilderness, not just during the day time, but at night time, thus introducing noise and light into the heritage area environment.
It is likely that word will some get out through social media of places to freedom camp in the Waitakere Ranges. In other places, beachfronts have experienced a “wall” of campervans and it has been necessary to prohibit freedom camping on the beach front – eg. Sullivans Bay at Mahurangi.
Generally, self-contained campervans are too big for one parking space and commonly take up several.
Health & safety
Although campervans would be required to be self-contained under the bylaw, campers using the dunes and bush as lavatories has been a persistent issue. Campers also use showers in changing sheds to wash and use hand basins to wash clothes and dishes which is not only unhygienic but also reduces the water supply in places which depend on roof water. There have been reports of campers taking water for their own use, and also visiting neighbouring houses asking for water or to use showers.
There are also health & safety issues related to the use of the road corridor in the Ranges. Some of the road pull-off areas on Piha Road and the Scenic Drive function as places where slow drivers can pull over. Safety issues will arise if these are used for freedom camping.
Freedom camping over a several day period effectively privatises the space for the personal use of the campers, which can extend to tables and chairs and personal belongings taking up more space.
At Piha and other places, beachfronts and parks are at a premium for recreation for day-trip visitors from Auckland and further afield. Surfers also make great use of the carparks. It is quite usual for these to be full on weekends and public holidays and during the summer period.
Freedom camping will make it more difficult for these day visitors to access the coast and tracks into parkland.
Economic impact of freedom camping
This is an aspect of access for visitors to the coast, if the economic impact makes existing camping facilities less viable. The Ranges contain ample informal and more formal camping places to meet the demand for camping. In the regional parkland, campervans can stay for a small fee at eight places in the Waitakeres: Arataki, Karamatura, Cascades Kauri, Cornwallis, Anawhata (Craw), Glen Esk, Whatipu and Log Race Road. There are also other tenting facilities. There is also a major campground on Piha Domain that is run under lease.
By extending freedom camping, the viability of these existing campgrounds is undermined. At Piha Domain, the campground has been reduced in size by flooding. Council has required the area available for camping to be reduced. Allowing freedom camping for two nights in all the carparks on the beachfront will have a major impact on the viability of the very long-standing and valued Piha Campground which currently provides access to the beaches and parks to a wide range of visitors.
What to say in your submission
- Nominate particular places for freedom camping to be prohibited
- Give reasons why you think that way. Try and couch what you say in terms of damage to the environment; health and safety; access for the public.
- Give evidence of your previous experience of freedom camping at that location with any dates of complaints, who the complaints went to and what was done.
This summary has been put together by Sandra Coney who is a member of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board. You are free to use any part of it in your submission. Sandra has written this as she has been receiving complaints about freedom camping for some years.
Contact me with any queries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Original Post from Sandra Coney: I am sorry to report that Auckland Council is proposing to change the Freedom Camping Bylaw to the detriment of Piha and other Ranges places. Previously freedom camping was banned from all Piha’s foreshore reserves, all parks, carparks and road ends. Freedom camping could only take place in designated places and of course for a small fee people could camp in vehicles at the end of Glen Esk Road, end of Log Race Road, McCreadies Paddock (Karekare) and Anawhata; or they can camp in Piha’s Domain Campground.
The Council proposes to reverse this, so that freedom campers can camp in any roadside or road end or on beachfront carparks. They are consulting the public on this till 5 December. The bylaw would allow parking in road reserves for a max of 2 nights and only for self-contained vehicles. Campers could not camp in reserves held under the Reserves Act, but could in reserves held under the Local Govt Act (LGA), and they could not freedom camp in any regional parks. At Piha, the Ministry of Education land is held under the LGA and the Council was unable to tell the board of any other parks in our Board area also held under the LGA.
The biggest threat to Piha is freedom camping in the carparks on road reserves along Marine Parade North, and the beachfront carparks at Piha, both in front of the surf club and the stretch further south. Freedom campers could also camp at the end of Glen Esk Road, Log Race Road, or Garden Road.
The Board compiled a list of 11 places it wanted included in the list of places where freedom camping is prohibited. I personally contacted every councillor asking if one of them would propose these be prohibited, but this did not happen. So the bylaw would allow widespread freedom camping at Piha and other Ranges places such as Karekare and Anawhata. Officers said there was no evidence freedom camping was a problem in these places, even though I personally and parks staff have put a lot of energy into dealing with annoying freedom campers who do things like use the dunes as a toilet or take water from public toilets blocks, make loud noise or light fires. It is also rather hard to gather evidence of nuisance from freedom camping in areas which are currently banned!
There is now a chance for local groups and individuals to make submissions on the proposed bylaw and I would urge you to do so. Below is a list of the areas where the Local Board wanted freedom camping banned. You can propose these and also add any other road reserves where you think it would be a problem.
Piha Wetland, 42 Seaview Road local park
Marine Parade North carparks on beachfront
Marine Parade South carparks on beachfront
Glen Esk Road, eastern end carpark at end of road
Karekare Road Parking area at beach (partly road reserve)
Anawhata Road entrance to Rose Track and White Track
Anawhata Road northern end, end of road parking area
Te Henga Bethells Road northern end carpark at beach
Bethells Road entrance to Lake Wainamu Track
French Bay French Bay Carparks
Little Huia Huia Road
You will find the link to make a submission in the Council media release below.