Results of the 2019/20 summer research into Responsible Camping

Research commissioned by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment into the 2019/20 summer season found that freedom camping provides financial benefits for New Zealand

Just over 245,000 people responsibly camped in New Zealand in the 2019 calendar year, of which around 63% (154,000) were international visitors and the remaining 37% (91,000) were New Zealand residents. These campers generated 2.67 million responsible camping nights at an average of 10.9 nights per person.

Domestic responsible campers spent an average of $729 per person per trip. International responsible campers who purchased their own vehicles spent an average of $7,912 per person per trip, compared with $5,864 for those who hired a budget vehicle and $4,890 for those who hired a premium vehicle.

Other findings

The 3 most popular areas in New Zealand for responsible camping were all in the South Island: Tasman district (151,000 responsible camping nights), Queenstown-Lakes District (137,000) and Christchurch city (128,000). The most popular North Island areas were Thames-Coromandel district and Tauranga city with 127,000 and 126,000 responsible camping nights respectively.

The average age of a domestic responsible camper was 63.3 years of age. The average age of an international responsible camper who purchased their own vehicle was 26 years compared with 32 for those who hired a budget vehicle and 42 years for those who hired a premium vehicle.

Both international and domestic responsible campers reported staying at a range of accommodation providers during a trip, with the most common being designated responsible camping sites, commercial campgrounds and New Zealand Motor Caravan Association parks.

Most responsible campers reported positive experiences with locals, with 86%-94% of domestic and international responsible campers who interacted with local residents described their interactions with local residents as very positive or positive.

Responsible Camping definition

For the purposes of this research, responsible camping refers to what is also known as freedom camping. Most people who freedom camp also use other forms of accommodation, such as commercial campgrounds.

For the purposes of this research a responsible camper is a person who has spent at least 1 night camping for free in New Zealand during the study period. This definition captures the full spectrum of travellers who responsibly camp – from those who spend a high percentage of their visitor nights responsible camping to those who stay at a responsible camping site only once.

Outside of this research, we are looking to change the language where everyone who camps in New Zealand in whichever form (commercial or for free) do so responsibly, therefore the term Responsible Camping is used more broadly.

Further information