Freedom Camping - Is it Still Allowed?

There’s been so much in the media on this topic over the past year, that campervan users may have gained the impression that freedom camping is very unwelcome in New Zealand or even banned. Neither is correct.

Most areas of New Zealand warmly welcome campervan users. However, a few irresponsible campers have left a bad impression about campervanning with the locals in some parts of the country. The culprits are usually people in low budget vans with no toilet or water storage facilities. All Wilderness campervans and motorhomes are certified self-contained which means they meet the standards for having a low impact on the environment e.g. have a toilet and sink, sufficient water storage, and a sealable refuse container.

The Freedom Camping Act came into force on September 1. It has given local authorities the ability to prohibit freedom camping in specific areas and enforce the bans. You are liable for a NZ$200 instant fine (or up to $10,000 depending on the severity of the offence) if you (a) camp in an area where it is not permitted; (b) breach any restrictions at the area; (c) damage the area; (d) dispose of your waste inappropriately; or (e) refuse to move on if asked to by an enforcement officer. On the other hand, local authorities can’t impose blanket bans – that is, they have to specify areas where freedom camping is not permitted. People travelling in certified self-contained vehicles like ours still have the right to camp in all areas unless it’s specifically restricted under a council bylaw or Department of Conservation notice. Look out for the round sign containing a tent and campervan with a red line through it – they mark the spots you should avoid.

I think that the new law is pretty reasonable. It balances our right to freedom camp with the need to protect the environment. It’s New Zealand’s pristine landscapes that make it such a compelling destination. It’s in all our interests to protect that.

Once you understand your rights and responsibilities, the problem for visitors is getting information about where you can and can’t freedom camp. The best source of information is the Rankers I Respect New Zealand Camping Map. This detailed map provides up-to-date information about commercial and freedom camping sites, Department of Conservation camping sites, and dump stations. Plus it includes information about facilities and costs. The android or iPhone app is a must-have accessory for your next road trip.

Oh, and if you’re thinking about hiring a campervan to follow your rugby team around New Zealand this month, contact us. We still have a couple left and they’re certified self-contained to boot so you can enjoy a spot of freedom camping.


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