Supporting sustainable freedom camping in Aotearoa New Zealand

Submissions closed: 16 May 2021, 11:55pm

This consultation is closed. 

A Bill has been introduced to Parliament that, if passed, will mean changes for how freedom camping works in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Government is now consulting on proposed regulatory changes. You can have your say about what these changes might look like.

Have your say: Freedom camping regulations

A summary of submissions document has been published and policy changes have been announced.

Where to find the policy proposals

This page is about the public consultation on freedom camping proposals to support sustainable freedom camping in Aotearoa New Zealand that took place in April and May 2021.

You can find information on the policy proposals that were informed by this consultation here: 

Freedom camping changes

Summary of submissions

Thank you to everyone who engaged with us and made submissions during the consultation period. Your submissions helped to inform policy decisions to improve responsible camping.

MBIE has analysed the submissions we received and have produced a summary of submissions document. This document shows the levels of support for each proposal from submitters. It also shows the key themes that were brought up by the individuals, businesses, organisations, and councils that contributed to the consultation.

The summary of submissions is available below.


The following submissions were made on the Discussion Document ‘Supporting sustainable freedom camping in Aotearoa New Zealand’ that MBIE received from businesses and organisations in April and May 2021.

The submissions are a mixture of full written submissions and survey submissions which answered set questions. MBIE withheld sensitive information that is coded under the following redaction reasons:

  • Privacy of natural persons; and
  • Commercial information.

Submissions we received from businesses and organisations(external link)

For the submissions that have been imported from Excel spreadsheets, each individual survey submission spans across 6 pages in the PDF below.

About the consultation

Responsible camping has a long history in Aotearoa New Zealand. Many New Zealanders enjoy travelling around the country, staying outside established campgrounds – and some see it as an important part of their birthright as New Zealanders to camp around New Zealand at low or no cost.

However, in recent years, the increasing number of freedom campers has raised concern from some communities around freedom campers’ cumulative impact on the environment, and the cost to host them. In particular, this concern has focused on the subset of freedom campers who stay in cars, or vans with sleeping platforms, that are not self-contained. This form of freedom camping is impacting on the social licence for tourism, and putting at risk New Zealand’s reputation as a destination that delivers a sustainable, high quality visitor experience.

The Government considers that while the borders are closed to international visitors, now is the time to address some of the systemic issues facing freedom camping.

This discussion document presented 4 proposals for consideration:

  1. Make it mandatory for freedom camping in a vehicle to be done in a certified self-contained vehicle.
  2. Make it mandatory for freedom campers to stay in a vehicle that is certified self-contained, unless they are staying at a site with toilet facilities (excluding public conservation lands and regional parks).
  3. Improve the regulatory tools for government land managers. 
  4. Strengthen the requirements for self-contained vehicles.
Infographic showing the 4 proposals and how they connect with each other.

An infographic of the 4 proposals, and how they connect with each other.

Out of scope of the consultation

We did not seek feedback on government’s broader approach to supporting responsible camping. This includes:

  • exploring wider reforms to the Freedom Camping Act 2011
  • reviewing the Camping-Ground Regulations 1985, which apply to commercial campgrounds
  • any feedback or views on local bylaws or notices made under the Freedom Camping Act 2011, or which are currently being consulted on by local authorities.

The discussion document

The discussion document outlined the current issues with freedom camping in New Zealand and why the Government wants change.

Clarity on proposed changes to the types of toilets in scope of proposal 4

Key points:

The Government sought your feedback about the nature and types of toilets that are suitable for a vehicle to be certified as self-contained.

Early feedback we received indicated that the different language used about toilets in proposal 4 – including "permanently plumbed toilet" and "fixed toilet" – was ambiguous and unclear, and made it difficult for you to determine what you were providing feedback on. In the discussion document we referred to both "permanently plumbed" and "fixed" to mean the same thing: a “permanent toilet” as defined in the voluntary standard:

Self-containment of motor caravans and caravans(external link) — Standards NZ

We apologise for the confusion.

Feedback we want from the public on toilets in vehicles for freedom camping:

Under proposal 4, the Government sought feedback on whether the voluntary standard for self-containment of motor caravans and caravans is fit for purpose, including the types of toilets it allows.

The voluntary standard allows several different types of toilet, provided that:

  • it is adequately secured while the vehicle is travelling
  • the toilet can be used within the vehicle, including sufficient head and elbow room whenever required, even with the bed made up
  • it provides sufficient waste holding capacity for the occupants for a minimum of 3 days.

Toilet types specified under the standard include:

  • Cassette toilet: a fixed toilet with a removable holding tank.
  • Composting toilet: a toilet that is an aerobic processing system to treat human waste, by composting.
  • Efficiency flushing toilet: a toilet which is flushed by a small volume of water.
  • Marine toilet: a fixed flushing toilet with a macerator pump, either manual or electrically operated.
  • Permanent toilet: a toilet that is permanently fixed inside the motor caravan.
  • Portable toilet: a toilet with its own holding tank, the toilet is not fixed to the motor caravan.

We sought feedback on whether the different types of toilets currently specified under the standard are appropriate, or whether they should be more restrictive. For example, if only permanent toilets were allowed, this would mean toilets that can be moved around in the vehicle would not be able to be used. We also sought feedback on whether black waste water tanks should continue to be both removable (for example, how a cassette toilet currently operates), and fixed.

Feedback we sought is on whether the current standard, which allows for different types of toilet to suit the type of vehicle, is adequate.

Feedback received prior to this clarification is still valid, and was considered alongside feedback received after this.

Consultation public meetings and webinars

A number of public meeting and webinars were held during the consultation period. Thank you to everyone who attended and engaged in these meetings.

If you are interested in viewing the presentations that were covered, please see the recordings below:

Topic: Freedom camping consultation - need for change and the law now

Duration: 6 minutes 38 seconds

Play recording(external link) — Zoom

Topic: Freedom camping consultation - the 4 proposals at a glance

Duration: 15 minutes 56 seconds

Play recording(external link) — Zoom

Supporting resources

Below are resources which were available for submitters to refer to during the consultation period:

Freedom Camping Act 2011(external link) —
The Freedom Camping Act 2011 is the legislation regulating freedom camping in New Zealand.

Self-containment of motor caravans and caravans(external link) — Standards NZ

More commonly known as the Self-Contained Vehicle Standard (SCVS), this is a voluntary standard which sets out the requirements and process for certifying a vehicle as self-contained.

Last updated: 08 September 2022