Supporting sustainable freedom camping in Aotearoa New Zealand

Submissions closed: 16 May 2021, 11:55pm

The Government has consulted on how to make freedom camping in New Zealand more sustainable. The discussion document released outlined four proposals to improve freedom camping in New Zealand, asking for public feedback.

Submissions received and next steps

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

MBIE is now analysing the submissions we have received, and is reporting back to the Minister of Tourism on the feedback, with recommendations for his consideration.

MBIE will publish a summary of submissions on this website.

Please direct any questions you have about this consultation to

MBIE will publish a summary of submissions

MBIE will publish a summary of submissions on this website.

We will not be making any individual submissions or survey responses public. Should any part of your submission be included in the summary of submissions, MBIE will seek your permission to publish your information, and ensure it does not refer to any names of individuals.

Where businesses or organisations made submissions, MBIE will consider that you have consented to the content being included in the summary of submissions unless you clearly stated otherwise.

The Privacy Act 2020 applies to submissions and survey responses. Any personal information you supplied to MBIE in the course of making a submission will be used by MBIE only in conjunction with matters covered by this document.

Submissions and survey responses may be the subject of requests for information under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA). If you object to the release of any information in your submission or survey, MBIE will take your views into account when responding to requests under the OIA. Any decision to withhold information requested under the OIA can be reviewed by the Ombudsman.

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 website

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 three 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.

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 four 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.

Standards New Zealand: Self-containment of motor caravans and caravans(external link)
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: 17 May 2021