Responsible camping

The Responsible Camping Working Group has made recommendations to improve both the management of New Zealand's responsible camping system, and the overall economic, social and environmental impact it has.

The Responsible Camping Working Group

The government's Responsible Camping Working Group was set up in April 2018 to provide the Minister of Tourism with:

  • 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.

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 on
  • use of technology be explored to help manage responsible camping
  • data be used to support decision-making at both a national and local level.

Practical actions to manage the 2018/2019 camping season

Legislative changes can take a long time to implement. To help manage the impact of camping during the 2018/19 peak summer season, the Working Group recommends that:

  • 28 councils receive funding for infrastructure, education and enforcement projects to help ease the pressure on communities that freedom camping creates
  • Tourism New Zealand run a marketing and education campaign to provide information to campers about expected behaviour
  • a data and technology-driven program be trialled giving real-time updates on the availability of campsites in some important tourist destinations.

The government has accepted these recommendations and has set aside around $8 million to fund several council infrastructure, education and enforcement projects.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is collaborating with different agencies to explore how to move the Working Group's recommendations for longer term legislative change forward.

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.