Freedom camping a bit less free

Some much needed restraint will be placed on freedom campers will new laws and policy to better manage freedom camping announced by Environment Minister Nick Smith and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson:

“Freedom camping is an important part of our tourism industry and great Kiwi lifestyle but we cannot tolerate irresponsible campers spoiling our most iconic areas with human waste and litter,” Dr Smith said.

“The number of freedom campers has doubled over the past decade to 110,000 international visitors and more than 40,000 New Zealanders. The existing system where each of our 67 districts has its own bylaws is not working for the responsible freedom camper wanting to do the right thing or for councils wanting to protect their local environment.”

A new Freedom Camping Bill will be introduced to Parliament this month that will enable councils to determine where camping is allowed, where it is restricted to campervans with self-containment, and where it is prohibited. The Department of Conservation will be able to make similar rules on the reserves it manages. There will be nationally consistent signage and practical enforcement provisions. A website will be provided outlining where people can and cannot camp nationally.

“We need some national consistency because most freedom campers are unaware of what district they are in one day to the next, but we also want to protect the rights of local communities to decide where freedom camping is to be allowed. We also want to encourage self-contained campervans by having restricted areas that don’t have toilets, as the most serious problems arise from freedom camping without sanitary facilities,” Dr Smith said.

Irresponsible freedom campers are no longer only a problem in remote country areas. Wayside stops on main roads and urban streets are also being used by people without self-contained loos.

The new law will provide for a $200 instant fine for illegal camping that may be imposed on the camper or the vehicle. New regulations will require campervan hire companies to record and disclose details so fines can be enforced. Fines up to $10,000 may be imposed by courts on a successful prosecution for illegally discharging a campervan’s sewage.

Instant fines for relatively minor breaches are far better than charges which lead to court, especially for people from overseas. Being able to impose the fine on a vehicle will put more onus on companies which hire them to educate visitors about where they may and may not camp.

Restrictions will add to costs for visitors but user-pays is better than having the costs of irresponsible freedom campers fall on us and our environment.

7 Responses to Freedom camping a bit less free

  1. Richard says:

    Not before time. Near to where I live and walk I frequently see examples and this within approx 500ms of public loos; at the bottom of my garden. The loos are adjacent to a reserve and car park where it is illegal to camp although it is not enforced. Those vehicles that do camp seem to be the ones with their own loos.

    The point should not be lost that the legislation also brings rules and certainty to travelers and should not be seen or perceived as a discouragement. After all everyone has to go—- The legislation and more importantly, its implementation needs to encourage travelers but at the time being being quite clear about the rules. Clear signage will be crucial.
    There is an old adage in the travel industry that comfort stops, loos, attract other businesses and business opportunities.

  2. robertguyton says:

    “Some much needed restraint will be placed on freedom * with new laws and policy to better manage freedom ** announced by Environment Minister Nick Smith and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson”

    * campers
    ** camping

    Ah National!

  3. Housebus owner says:

    It is bollux that people like me and other self contained motor home and caravan association members are going to loose the right to freedom camp because of dirty tourists.

    Instead of targeting us good kiwis who like to get out and enjoy our country during the holidays, HIRE VAN companies need to be targeted!

    They are the ones causing the problem!

    The bill should read: A hired vehicle that is intended for sleeping must have a self containment cert.

    Thats all that needs to happen and then the problem is solved!

  4. homepaddock says:

    The proposed regulations aren’t aimed at those with self-contained loos. they’ll still be free to camp almost anywhere.

    Enabling fines to be imposed on vehicles will target hire companies.

    Instead of: ” A hired vehicle that is intended for sleeping must have a self containment cert.”

    How about: “Vehicles intended for sleeping must only stay overnight where loos are provided unless they have a self-containment cert.”?

  5. gravedodger says:

    I have seen evidence of petitions from motor Camp proprietors and their umbrella organisations to outlaw all freedom camping as it would be beneficial to their operations if the very large numbers of Vans on our roads could be forced to only park in “camps”.
    One major problem with enforcement of such bans is the defense of resting due to tiredness, a large plank in road safety campaigns.
    Those of us operating fully self contained mobile homes who not only have the ability to retain their waste water both ‘black’ and ‘grey’ but also “accept” the philosophy of utilising that ability. It is now a requirement of membership of the N Z Motor Caravan Association that new members must have a certified S C Vehicle but we have only a compliance rate among our total (25 000) membership of around 70%. Many of the members of previous years are slow to comply but in their defense they often do very little travel now and often prefer camps. All members attending our monthly rallies must be S C compliant.(the NZMCA national rally has in recent years had over 1000 vans all SC).
    I have anecdotal evidence of travelers with hired self contained vehicles, not using the technology on board due to a reluctance to self service them.
    Another limitation is a reluctance on the part of some local authorities to provide convenient “dump stations” to allow user friendly public dumping , Cartridge toilets need emptying about every four/ five days and smaller vehicles need to replenish fresh water and discharge ‘grey ‘water on a similar time frame.
    The NZMCA branches are willing to assist with “dump station” establishment, construction and advice if required.
    Oamaru for example only has one dump station (as at last visit) located at the motor camp near the town center and the camp management has a policy of only allowing dumping on payment of a fee for one nights stay, then around $25. Timaru on the other hand has a public DS located as part of a Truck Stop set up at Washdyke with room for even the largest A class motor homes, plenty of room, good fresh water and close to Highway. Many New World Supermarkets have DS on the perimeter of their carparks which in our case encourages purchase of other essential supplies from them.

    This is a burgeoning health and aesthetic problem that must be addressed with a combination of education, legislation including realistic penalties, and public awareness, and I agree their must be a major change in the mindset of the hire companies in not only providing the means, the equipment and the will to embrace this simple technology but the small budget vans both hire and private that will struggle to comply due to space and weight limitations, be required to use camps that provide toilet and ablution service but at reasonable pricing somewhat lower than the extortionate (up to $40 +) when all they require is basic facilities, secure space and location, obviously power is not required.

  6. robertguyton says:

    Gravedodger’s right.

    Banning’s a lot easier than his multi-pronged approach though and that’s what National’s authoritarians prefer.
    Crush the campers!
    Down with freedom!

  7. James says:

    The self contained campers are still targeted by the new law, they, along with other forms of free camping will no longer be able to stay within 1km of any road, any vehicle track or any beach/coastline. Also the council receives the money from any fines and they can ban any further areas that they please.

    If you are against the blanket ban then please ‘like’ the following facebook page.

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