Tenting or resting: Freedom tenting ‘loophole’ raises concern

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Freedom Camping is banned on George Quay in Motueka, where a woman was found sleeping in the back seat of her van and fined for violating the law.  She denied the fine, successfully arguing that she was resting to avoid driver fatigue.

Martin De Ruyter / stuff

Freedom Camping is banned on George Quay in Motueka, where a woman was found sleeping in the back seat of her van and fined for violating the law. She denied the fine, successfully arguing that she was resting to avoid driver fatigue.

Fears have been expressed that a Nelson Justice of the Peace might have set a precedent accepting evidence for a freedom camping cashee that she was resting to avoid driver fatigue and not camp.

A US $ 200 fine was imposed on the woman after she was found around 5:45 a.m. one summer morning sleeping in the back seat of a van on George Quay in Motueka – an area where freedom camping is permitted under a Tasman bylaw District Council is prohibited.

Council Environment and Planning Manager Dennis Bush-King told members of the Regulatory Committee on Thursday the woman challenged that fine in Nelson District Court, where she argued that she was resting to avoid driver fatigue, “and that Court accepted their evidence ”.

According to the Freedom Camping Act 2011, it is allowed “to rest or sleep in a trailer or motor vehicle on the side of the road to avoid driver fatigue”.

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Tasman District Councilor Dana Wensley says there is an

BRADEN FASTIER / stuff

Tasman District Councilor Dana Wensley says there is an “enforcement loophole” in the Freedom Camping Act.

“So the violation fine was waived,” said Bush-King.

Regulatory Committee Chair, Councilor Dana Wensley, said the incident highlighted what she described as an “enforcement gap”.

Wensley told committee members that she sent a letter to the Ministers for Home Affairs, Conservation and Tourism “asking for a response so we can fix this loophole as it complicates our enforcement work”.

The Tasman District Council has requested a review of the wording and interpretation of certain sections of the Freedom Camping Act in order to provide the courts with

MARTIN DE RUYTER / STUFF

The Tasman District Council has requested a review of the wording and interpretation of certain sections of the Freedom Camping Act in order to provide the courts with “better guidance on what camping is and what is not”.

The letter sent to Stuff asked for a review of the wording and interpretation of certain sections of the Freedom Camping Act in order to provide the courts with “better guidance on what camping is and what is not”.

In the letter, Wensley said the woman stated in her testimony that she had only been parked for about an hour and a quarter when her presence was detected by the law enforcement officer.

“What if someone says they have to park, say, six hours to avoid fatigue? In our view, that decision undermines the intent of the plot, ”says Wensley. “It’s already being advertised on social media to avoid paying a fine.”

Councilor Kit Maling says most of the

MARTIN DE RUYTER / stuff

Councilor Kit Maling says most of the “big questions” about freedom camping is in Golden Bay, a destination.

Bush-King told committee members that there were some “unique features” in this case. The woman said she would camp in Buller Gorge first. Then she stopped at the reservation next to a roundabout in Motueka, but it was too loud, so she drove to George Quay around 4:30.

“That’s the nature of this particular case,” said Bush-King. “It’s not replicated in all cases. We will continue to enforce our bylaws, but if someone wants to challenge the issue of a fine and says that they have rested for the past six hours to avoid driver fatigue, the law simply cannot be enforced. ”

A reserve near the roundabout at the entrance to Motueka, where a woman stopped in her van, is called Rest Awhile.

Martin De Ruyter / stuff

A reserve near the roundabout at the entrance to Motueka, where a woman stopped in her van, is called Rest Awhile.

However, Councilor Kit Maling said the council has most of the “meaning issues” with Freedom Camping in Golden Bay, where resting to avoid driver fatigue is not an excuse “because it is a goal”.

“So I wouldn’t be too worried about an incident,” Maling said. “Somebody is always going to look for a loophole and try to get legislation so tight that you don’t have a loophole, I think it is quite difficult.”

However, some other councilors were concerned about a precedent.

Local government minister Nanaia Mahuta said she would respond

ROBERT KITCHIN / stuff

Local government minister Nanaia Mahuta says she will respond “shortly” to Councilor Dana Wensley’s letter.

Councilor Dean McNamara said if the incident had hit social media it would not be “an isolated incident” while Councilor Celia Butler asked if the decision “would begin with the creation of a case law”.

“With this type of court decision, is there a risk that it will be used in a similar situation in the future …

Bush-King said that was why Wensley was recommended to raise the issue with ministers.

“We haven’t got a response from them yet,” he said.

When asked for an answer, a press secretary for Interior Minister Jan Tinetti referred Stuff to local government minister Nanaia Mahuta, saying it was a matter for the local government.

Tourism Secretary Stuart Nash, with Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime, explains the changes to freedom camping he would like to see. The video was first released in April 2021.

Mahuta said Friday she would “reply shortly” to Wensley.

“My colleague, the Minister for Tourism [Stuart Nash], recently held consultations to help effectively manage freedom camping in New Zealand, including suggestions to improve regulatory tools, ”said Mahuta. “I know that the Minister will adopt proposals based on the feedback that the Cabinet has received in due course.”

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