Responsible camping

Camping is a great way to experience New Zealand. Most campers are respectful and bring welcome economic benefits to our regions.

Following on from the success of last summer, the Government has announced that a further $8 million is being made available to continue to help encourage responsible camping around New Zealand.

Funding for summer 2019/20

The summer 2019/20 responsible camping funding will be available for operating costs including education and enforcement projects, ambassador programmes, as well as temporary facilities like showers and toilets.

The funding will not be available for capital costs. Applications for capital projects, such as permanent shower or toilet blocks, carparks can be directed to the Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

Funding criteria will be published on the MBIE website before the funding round opens on 1 June 2019.

Timing for the responsible camping funding round:

  • Mid May 2019 - criteria and application process available on the MBIE website.
  • 1 June 2019 – responsible camping funding round opens
  • 14 June 2019 – funding round closes
  • Early July 2019 – successful programmes announced
  • Summer 2019/20 – successful programmes to be up and running

The Responsible Camping Working Group

In 2018, the Responsible Camping Working Group was established to identify ways to better manage the freedom camping system. They recommended long-term policy and regulatory changes to the responsible camping system, and short-term practical actions that can be taken to help councils manage camping in their regions during the 2018/19 peak summer season.

Key insights included:

  • an evaluation of the role of responsible camping in New Zealand's tourism and recreation offering
  • recommendations for better management of the camping system
  • practical actions to support councils to manage freedom camping in their regions during the 2018/19 peak summer season.

Results from summer 2018/19 funding

$8.5 million was made available to help address some immediate issues for summer 2018/19. These projects included:

  • infrastructure, education and enforcement projects identified and implemented by 27 councils across the country
  • a marketing and education campaign managed by Tourism New Zealand to provide information to campers on expected behaviour
  • a data and technology-driven pilot that provided real-time updates of campsite availability.

These initiatives were well received. The Responsible Camping Working Group and MBIE received great feedback from communities, campers and local government. The projects showed that by working together with local government and communities, we could achieve sustainable solutions to tourism issues and improve the overall experience for communities and campers.

Responsible Camping funding recipients

Among the initiatives run last summer, was a data and technology pilot that provided real-time information on the capacity of selected campsites. Key results from this pilot saw:

  • over 20,000 people checked the live availability of the trial sites
  • on average, people were 97 km away from a campsite when they checked live availability
  • 90 per cent of people who saw that a campsite was full, decided to go to another site, reducing overcrowding and the amount of driving campers had to do.

This information has been shared with councils to help with infrastructure and tourism planning.

An education campaign was run by Tourism New Zealand that gave people free wifi at selected iSites, after they watched a video on how to camp responsibly. The campaign saw:

  • nearly 30,000 people received free wifi after watching the video and were directed to the camping.org.nz website.
  • the responsible camping video was also pushed out using social media, targeting campers and was viewed over 1 million times.
  • people buying vehicles for camping on Trade Me were also served up advertising about camping responsibly – these reached almost 60,000 users

You can view the Responsible Camping – Tiaki Promise video on YouTube(external link).

Report from the Working Group

The Working Group presented its recommendations to the Minister in July 2018. These include:

  • long-term policy and regulatory changes to the responsible camping system, and
  • short-term practical actions that can be taken to help councils manage camping in their regions during the 2018/19 peak summer season.

Recommendations to improve the camping system

The Working Group considers that:

  • it's important to keep and protect New Zealanders’ rights to visit and use our public spaces
  • the camping system can be improved by giving councils and landowners better resources to manage camping on their land
  • a camping system with a sustainable and flexible network of camping places is desired
  • we should ensure camping has a positive economic, social and environmental impact overall.

The Report of the Responsible Camping Working Group [PDF, 144 KB].

Regulatory changes

To help improve the system for managing camping in public places, the Responsible Camping Working Group recommends a review:

  • of the Freedom Camping Act 2011 to decide whether it's still fit for purpose, or whether new legislation that encourages responsible camping is required. The review could include:
    • the introduction of 4 ‘camping zones’. While these might vary according to local circumstances, they could create consistency in responsible camping rules across New Zealand
    • a review of the compliance system to ensure it helps prevent unwanted behaviour
  • of the administration system for the New Zealand Standard for self-containment of motor caravans (NZS 5465:2001). The review could also explore whether the certification process should be managed by a national body, in a similar way to the warrant of fitness system for vehicles
  • of the Camping-Grounds Regulations 1985, which some operators believe is too restrictive and prohibitive to setting up new sites.

Freedom Camping Act 2011(external link)

Certified Self-Containment(external link)

Camping Grounds Regulations 1985(external link)

Actions to support regulatory changes

To support these regulatory changes, the Working Group recommends that:

  • guidance be provided to support councils and landowners to transition to the new system once it's decided
  • use of technology be explored to help manage responsible camping
  • data be used to support decision-making at both a national and local level.

Responsible camping data

We have provided some analysis of responsible camping by international visitors in New Zealand. The analysis is from data gathered in the International Visitor Survey.

Freedom camping by international visitors in New Zealand

International Visitor Survey

In this section

Responsible Camping Working Group

The Responsible Camping Working Group includes representatives from local and central government, and tourism sector agencies.

Funding recipients

Councils across New Zealand have received project funding to help manage freedom camping in their regions during the 2018/2019 peak summer season.