15 Aug 2018

Hanmer Springs businesses push to alter freedom camping bylaw

5:48 pm on 15 August 2018

Some Hanmer Springs businesses are hoping that an eleventh-hour effort will save their town from being inundated with freedom campers.

Hanmer Springs.

Hanmer Springs. Photo: RNZ/Logan Church

Hurunui District council passed a new district-wide freedom camping bylaw in July, which opened up four parts of the Hanmer Springs town centre to freedom campers where none were allowed previously.

A motion to revoke or alter the district-wide bylaw had also been tabled and a petition was launched today by the town's business owners to try and change the council's mind.

Businesses say they were not only worried about the problems that freedom campers could bring, they say the whole bylaw was fundamentally flawed in the first place.

St James owner Paul Baigent said one of the council's new freedom camping areas was right on the doorstep of his five-star accommodation.

"As soon as people come to know that is an area for freedom camping it gets on the apps, we all know then there is huge pressure with people flocking in for that," he said.

"There will be a huge difficulty controlling it."

St James owner Paul Baigent.

One of the council's new freedom camping areas was infront of Paul Baigent's accommodation business. Photo: RNZ/Logan Church

Mr Baigent was also unhappy with how the council came to its decision on the new bylaw, which would come into effect at the start of September.

He said the local community board never decided if it favoured the changes, although he said the council was told that the community board did.

"It was clear ... that some of the councillors felt there should be changes to the Hanmer Springs plan, but they were told through the chair that that was not possible because of the position the community board had taken. We believe that councillors were misled in that process."

Hanmer Springs councillor Jason Fletcher declined to comment ahead of an extraordinary council meeting tomorrow.

Hanmer Springs Business Association represented about half of the town's hospitality businesses, and its chairperson Christian Chester also had concerns.

"We think that leading up to things there were flaws in the consultation process ... we weren't properly heard and we weren't properly consulted on."

But council chief executive Hamish Dobbie had a different version of events.

"[We] went back to the community board with an option that proposed restricted freedom camping within the village centre ... but allowing it in the surrounding area," he said.

"The community board didn't like that option and said their least 'unpreferred' option ... was to have the four [zones] ... and that's what we've run with."

He dismissed accusations the consultation and decision-making process were fundamentally flawed.

"No ... 'self serving' would be the word I would use for that description," he said.

"Consultation means that your view will be heard, it will be listened to, and it will be considered - it doesn't necessarily mean that you are going to get your way," he said.

Tomorrow councillors will have to choose whether to keep the bylaw as it is, scrap it or change it.

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