Freedom Camping in NZ - How to do it right!

Freedom Camping in NZ - How to do it right!

March 11, 2019

New Zealand is a beautiful place and being self-contained in a campervan or motorhome means you can reach parts of it that many people never get to see.

But we recommend taking the time to research how to be a great guest in NZ - one that the locals will welcome back any time!

1. The Golden Rule

Treat every place you stop and stay the night as if it is your own backyard. (But if your backyard is a real mess, maybe think of a better comparison!) Look after the place, clean up after yourself, don't dump and run. 

2. Make sure you've booked a fully self-contained vehicle

This makes following tip #1 a lot easier! If you have a certified self contained vehicle, it will display a sticker like the one below, which means it meets all the criteria for being self-contained.

self-contained certification

So it will carry three days worth of drinking water per person, will have its own toilet which can be used when the bed is fully made up and again store the waste for three days, and also store waste water from the sink and shower for up to three days, plus have a rubbish bin with a lid.

The list of minimum requirements is here:

  1. Fresh water tanks: 4 L per person per day (12 L per person minimum); eg. 24 litres is required for 2 people for 3 days & 48 litres is required for 4 people for 3 days
  2. A sink: (via a smell trap/water trap connected to a water tight sealed waste water tank
  3. Grey/black waste water tank: 4 L per person per day (12 L per person minimum, vented and monitored if capacity is less than the fresh water tank)
  4. Evacuation hose: (3 m for fitted tanks) or long enough to connect to a sealed portable tank
  5. Sealable refuse container (rubbish bin with a lid)
  6. Toilet (portable or fixed): Minimum capacity 1 L per person per day (3 L net holding tank capacity per person minimum).  

 3. Plan ahead

One of the most appealing things about a road trip where you are taking your accommodation along for the ride is the idea that you can just stop anywhere that takes your fancy and park up for the night.

That's true to an extent, but you will have a much happier and less frustrating trip if you at least do some planning ahead. Use the available apps and maps to work out where you are most likely to be ending up towards the end of the day, and do your homework on suitable places to stop and stay.

camping app from rankers

New Zealand doesn't have a consistent policy regarding freedom campers nationwide, so don't assume that the rules for the last place you stopped are the same as the rules for the next.

And most importantly, the rules for the very popular tourist locations like the national parks will be much tighter than the rules in many of the cities, due to the lack of infrastructure and the sheer volume of people wanting to park and stay.

There are about 340 free camping areas around New Zealand, and virtually all the places where freedom campers are welcome require that you are driving a self-contained vehicle, otherwise you will be moved along or possibly even fined for parking there.

 4. Be tactful and helpful around locals and other campers

Unfortunately, some freedom campers who have not been self-contained and used local gutters, bins or the roadside for their waste, have received very bad press around New Zealand in the last few years, so the topic of freedom camping has become quite sensitive in some areas.

We recommend you behave as if you are a guest in this country, respect the locals, do your best not to be problematic, and your holiday will be a lot more enjoyable all round.

5. When in doubt, be prepared to pay for a night

Sometimes you might find you simply can't get a freedom camping spot for your intended destination. So rather than taking the risk of camping in prohibited areas, make the effort to find and stay at one of the many great holiday parks or paid camping grounds all around the country.

Make the most of your paid nights to fill up your water tanks, empty your waste and rubbish, have a decent shower or two, use the park wifi and charge up your electric battery reserves! In fact we recommend aiming to plan your trip so you park up at a paid site at least once every few days for the reasons above.

6. Keep your eyes open for dumping stations

Once again, use your apps and maps to find the location of dumping stations along your route, so you don't get caught short with more waste than your vehicle can handle! Look out for this symbol along the way.

Again, if you stay some paid nights, choose camp grounds that have waste dumping facilities free for paid guests to use.

7. Enjoy your trip!

Make the most of your time here in New Zealand, appreciate the scenery, the friendly locals and all the experiences you have on your list.

If you booked your vehicle with Affordable Motor Homes, Get in touch with us for advice or any issues you might have once you are underway, and of course send your friends our way if they are planning their own roadtrip around New Zealand!