Camping is part of the kiwi way of life and a great way to enjoy the beautiful scenery this country has to offer. There are many registered campsites where you can pitch your tent but most of them are very busy and often booked out, especially in summer.
If you own a campervan or motorhome, you don’t have to book into a campground – there are hundreds of designated areas for freedom camping, some of them right at the beach, in beautiful bush settings or national parks. Freedom camping means you don’t have to worry about bookings and packed campgrounds, and you can save a lot of money as freedom camping is free.
What are the requirements?
Most of the designated freedom camping sites are for self contained vehicles only and ignoring this rule can lead to instant fines of $200. The NZ Motorhome & Caravan Association has a list of all freedom camping spots in New Zealand. You can also download GPS apps like Camping NZ that also show public toilets, dump stations, holiday parks, etc. However these apps are user generated and some of the freedom camping sites on there may not be official sites.
What is Self Containment?
To be eligible to stay on most freedom camping sites, you vehicle must be self contained to New Zealand Standard 5465:2001
The vehicle must have:
- A fresh water tank for enough water for 3 days per person (i.e. minimum 12L per person)
- A waste water tank that can hold the same amount of water
- A sink (so you can wash dishes inside your vehicle and not in a stream)
- A Toilet (a chemical toilet or PortaPotti will do it has suffucient capacity)
- A bin with a lid
This doesn’t mean you have to buy an expensive motorhome or factory fitted campervan. You can easily buy a panel van and convert it yourself.
If your vehicle has the above features, you can get it officially certified and display the certification on your vehicle – otherwise you may still be fined, even if your vehicle has all the above features.
More information about self containment and how to get certified can be found here:
In addition to freedom camping sites, the Department of Conservation (DOC) offers many low cost campsites for non self contained vehicles and tents.
Responsible Camping Code
New Zealand is very beautiful and it should stay that way. Too many campers have abused the freedom camping concept, either by littering or misbehaving. Therefore, the rules have become stricter and stricter over the last 5 years.
Don’t litter! Embrace the motto “take only photographs, leave only footprints”. If a rubbish bin is full, don’t leave your rubbish next to it, take it with you. If you’re the first one to leave rubbish next to a bin, others will do the same.
Be respectful! If a freedom camping spot is near a residential area, or if there are other campers around, keep noise down at night.
Read the signs! Some freedom camping areas only permit a limited number of vehicles – first come first serve. If you’re too late, find another spot – there are plenty.
Many freedom camping spots have been closed due to over-use, littering and misbehaviour – so stick to the rules and don’t spoil it for others. This article is a perfect example: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/77350438/Freedom-camping-numbers-out-of-control-at-Christchurch-park
More information about responsible camping can be found here: http://www.camping.org.nz/