On 30 November 2021, the Minister of Tourism announced the freedom camping changes Government intends to make. These changes seek to improve the sustainability of freedom camping in New Zealand, protect the natural environment and local communities’ enjoyment of it, and support efforts to ensure that all freedom camping is done responsibly. The changes are subject to parliamentary and Cabinet processes, and are likely to be considered by a Select Committee in 2022.
The changes are:
- Require vehicle-based freedom campers to use a certified self-contained vehicle when they stay on council land. This is unless the council designates the site as suitable for non-self-contained vehicles.
- Establish a regulated system for the certification and registration of self-contained vehicles.
- Require vehicles to have a fixed toilet to be certified self-contained.
- Strengthen the infringement system (for example, through increased fines and a 14 day notice period for infringements).
- Extend the Freedom Camping Act to include land managed by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency and Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand.
The Government is seeking to introduce the new rule requiring freedom camping in a vehicle on council land to be done in a certified self-contained vehicle, except at designated sites.
There will be a 2 year transition period before all self-contained vehicles will need to meet the new standards to be considered self-contained. Some types of vehicles will need to meet the standard earlier. These will include rental vehicles, or any vehicles certified after the regulations have been active for 6 months. The transition period will commence as soon as the Bill is enacted by Parliament.
The full timeline is as follows:
- Parliament amends the Freedom Camping Act 2011 and the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act 2006.
- Vehicle-based freedom camping on council land must now be done in a certified self-contained vehicle, unless at a site specifically designated by the local council for freedom camping in non-self-contained vehicles. Councils can designate sites as appropriate for non-self-contained vehicles through bylaws.
- Existing bylaws that designate areas as suitable for non-self-contained vehicles will continue to apply.
- The voluntary standard will still be used to demonstrate proof of self-containment, and blue warrant cards will still be issued.
- Only vehicles with a fixed toilet (not portable) will be able to be certified as self-contained from now but vehicles with a portable toilet already certified can still freedom camp.
- New freedom camping offences are introduced, and infringements can now be emailed.
- The payment period and reminder notice period is changed from 28 days to 14 days.
- Vehicle owners, including rental companies, are now responsible for the payment of any infringement notices issued to the vehicle they own.
- The Freedom Camping Act 2011 can now be applied to land managed by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency and Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand.
6 months after enactment
- The register of self-contained vehicles is operational and accessible to enforcement officers to verify whether a vehicle has been certified as self-contained. Certification authorities can start recording the details of certifications. The public can access the register of self-contained vehicles to see whether a vehicle has been certified as self-contained.
- Issuing authorities can apply to the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board to become certification authorities, and start issuing green warrant cards.
- Certification can be done by either existing issuing authorities (using the voluntary standard and issuing blue warrant cards) or new certification authorities (using the technical requirements in Regulations and issuing green warrant cards).
- Vehicles can now be certified to the new requirements (green warrant cards), but vehicle owners can still choose to certify their vehicles with blue warrants if their vehicle has a fixed toilet. Blue warrant cards will still be evidence of self-containment.
- The new tiered infringement framework will be in place. Higher fines may be issued for non-compliance with freedom camping rules.
- Blue warrant cards will still be evidence of self-containment.
12 months after enactment
- Vehicles can no longer be certified to the old voluntary standard with blue warrant cards. However, existing blue warrant cards are still evidence of self-containment.
- Only certification authorities will be able to certify vehicles. Only green warrant cards can be issued. Any self-containment vehicle certification or recertification must be to the new requirements.
18 months after enactment
- Rental vehicles used for freedom camping must now be certified with a green warrant card.
- Blue warrant cards on rental vehicles will no longer be evidence of self-containment.
- Existing blue warrant cards on other vehicles will still be evidence of self-containment.
24 months after enactment
- All vehicles used for freedom camping must now be certified with a green warrant card.
- Blue warrant cards no longer meet the minimum requirements for demonstrating that a vehicle is self-contained.
Please note these timeframes are subject to Cabinet and Parliament processes – any deferrals to timeframes will be communicated on MBIE’s website.