Freedom Camping Bylaw: Dudding Reserve, Little Shoal Bay

24 August 2019 Update:
On the 24 August 2019, Auckland Council’s Governing Body announced that they now require council officers to provide advice for a new statement of proposal after the local body elections.

In the meantime, the current regulations apply.
Read the full Governing Body agenda here

Under the Reserves Act, that means no freedom camping in Little Shoal Bay Reserve. Not that Auckland Council has the resources to police that within a meaningful time frame – currently five working days to respond to a report of freedom campers in the bay.

23 June 2019 Update:
Auckland Council, wisely some might say, made the decision to delay the Hearings Panel recommendations report. Auckland Council says the reason for doing so was that a community group had signaled it’s intent on taking legal action against the proposed bylaw.

Following feedback from our members, the Birkenhead Residents Association opposed the proposal that allows Freedom Camping in Dudding Reserve, Little Shoal Bay.

The proposed Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw PROHIBITS Freedom Camping in Vehicles in Little Shoal Bay, Maritime Terrace Birkenhead, however, ALLOWS 6 (six) parking spaces (which can be increased at any time in the future without notice) for non-self-contained vehicles in Dudding Reserve – between the Bowling Club and the Public Toilet.

The Proposed Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw, in Relation to Little Shoal Bay and Dudding Reserve

Click here to find out more About the proposed Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw 

Auckland Council has stated that one of the objectives of the proposed Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw is to, … “set restrictions to manage freedom camping

However, there appears to be no provision in the proposed Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw, nor any budget, for the management of the Bylaw. Therefore, the proposed Bylaw will not be policed. There will be no point in phoning Auckland Council to report that Freedom Campers are parked in Little Shoal Bay, or that there are more than six campers in Dudding Reserve, because they may not be able to do anything about it.

Over-crowding and Illegal Camping

Auckland Council has also stated that one of the objectives of the proposed Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw is to address “over-crowding and illegal camping” However, as stated above, there is no provision in the Bylaw to do this.

Example of why over-crowding and illegal camping might be an issue to be concerned about:
Kaikōura District Council established three “responsible freedom camping” sites to try and manage freedom camping. However, once these sites were advertised and word got out, many more vehicles turned up at each spot.

One location which had been designated for 20 vehicles frequently has had over 100 turn up. While another had 65 vehicles. This is one of our concerns for Dudding Reserve and Little Shoal Bay.

Some of our Members who are against the proposed Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw, are also Freedom Campers themselves and are able to report first-hand experiences of the issues of overcrowding at un-managed Freedom Camping locations. In many countries there is a booking system and a small fee is required.

An Ecologically Sensitive Reserve

Local Volunteers who have raised money and worked for many decades to restore the Little Shoal Bay wetland and adjacent native forest are concerned about the risk of attracting people to camp on the site who may roam over the kauri roots – risking the spread of kauri dieback disease and trampling regenerating bush underfoot – not to mention the almost certain increase in rubbish and toilet waste being spread in the bushes.

Their concern about an increase in rubbish left behind by Freedom Campers is supported by the increase in rubbish collected in our Annual Little Shoal Bay and Reserve clean up last December. Also by the media reports of the negative impact freedom camping has had in other ecologically sensitive sites in other parts of New Zealand.

Auckland Council’s proposal for a freedom camping site in any part of Dudding Reserve, Little Shoal Bay – adjacent to a sensitive unique native wetland and forested bush area, Le Roys Bush, shows a complete lack of forethought.

Freedom Camping in Dudding Reserve will have a detrimental and irreversible effect on the environment and recreational space that generations of Auckland residents have used.

Human Traffic Is the Number One Way That Kauri Dieback Is Spread

Kauri dieback spreads to a city park on Auckland's North Shore

There is kauri in Le Roys bush which is immediately adjacent to Dudding Park area.
The following Department of Conservation website: States that:

Human traffic is the number one way that kauri dieback is spread e.g. when someone walks through mud or dead infected small feeding roots of kauri containing spores and carries the contaminated mud on their footwear to another kauri area.

Cleaning footwear and gear and staying on the track is the best way to contain the disease and save these forest giants for future generations.

Allowing non-self contained camper vans at Dudding Reserve, where there is just one toilet, inevitably means that campers will defecate in the nearby bush. This contravenes not only the Department of Conservation’s national biosecurity policies but also those of Auckland Council.

And from the following website:

…. freedom campers, who try to park up at night in the many little lay-bys on the road that bisects Waipoua kauri forest, and then wander in amongst the big trees – without any shoe-cleaning or supervision.

One Toilet for 12 People Per Night

Think about it for a moment, how would a one-bathroom household cope with 12 adults per night with one toilet? 12 People (assuming 2 per vehicle, it could be more) that presumably know each other – not a bunch of complete strangers!

That is also assuming only the maximum number of Freedom Campers turn up, and that there are no other users in the bay and that the 4-5 Homeless people that frequently call Dudding Reserve “Home” move on to greener pastures.

Now consider what might happen when 20 camper vans turn up – potentially 40 people all expected to use one toilet!

But wait, no I can’t. There are some shrubs just here and a bush over there. Whew, that’s a relief!

Remember, the Proposed Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw for Dudding Reserve is for non-self contained vehicles (they have no onboard facilities) for two nights – three days.

There does not appear to be budget for increased rubbish collection or toilet cleaning and maintenance. Nor is there a budget for policing the number of Freedom Camper vehicles. Which bring us to our next reason for opposing the Freedom Camping Bylaw.

Management of the Proposed Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw

Auckland Council has stated that “Our research has found that Auckland does not have enough places for freedom campers to go.” And that ” This causes conflict as there is over-crowding and illegal camping in unsuitable areas.

Apparently, they identified something like 400 places where uncontrolled Freedom Camping currently takes place. Their solution has been to identify 107 sites that they deem suitable locations and direct all Freedom Campers to these locations

Which means that 293 sites currently being used by a growing number of Freedom Campers will be prohibited sites. Do the math people. 400 sites down to 107 – 6 of those parking spaces are in Dudding Reserve. And they can increase this number at anytime in the future without notice!

There are already 6-8 vehicles that regularly park overnight in Dudding Reserve – even though under the Reserves Act 1977 this is an illegal activity. Additionally, duri ng the peak Camping season there is almost always others who park in Little Shoal Bay carpark.

So you might be thinking, Okay, so this Bylaw is simply going to legitimise what’s already happening in Little Shoal Bay. Which might be a fair argument, except for the fact that IF this Bylaw comes into effect as proposed, the problem will only get worse.

Auckland’s Freedom Camping locations go from circa 400 to 107. Dudding Reserve will be advertised as a legal option on Freedom Camping websites and Apps. It will not be managed – there is no provision for a booking system. So overcrowding of Dudding Reserve is going to happen.

Drivers may have traveled all day and be tired. If they arrive and find the six spaces have already be occupied they are not going to simply drive away. Particularly if a) there are plenty of other parking spaces available and b) Little Shoal Bay parking area has one of the best views in town – if not the county!

There is no serious provision to manage/police this Bylaw. It will be a free for all and the residents and other users of Little Shoal Bay, Dudding Reserve and Le Roys Bush will suffer the consequence for generations to come.

These are but a few of the reasons we are against the Proposed Freedom Camping in Vehicles Bylaw for Dudding Reserve. PLEASE take some time to make an informed submission and support us stop this ill-conceived bylaw coming a reality- a nightmare.