On 30 November 2021, the Minister of Tourism announced significant changes to freedom camping in New Zealand. Most of the changes were anticipated by the NZMCA (following the Minister’s public statements throughout the year) and several are in line with our advocacy efforts over the past few years. 

Our primary concern is the impact these changes will likely have on the many thousands of members who own well-designed vehicles with portable toilets.

The changes will commence in late-2022 and are expected to be completed in the summer of 2024/25.  They will have an impact on what vehicles can be certified as self-contained, how certification will be undertaken and where uncertified vehicles can be used for freedom camping.  A detailed summary of these changes along with useful FAQ’s can be found on the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s website.

Outline of the five key changes

  1. Certified self-contained vehicles only - vehicle-based freedom camping can only be done on local council sites in certified self-contained vehicles unless a council has designated the site as suitable for non-self-contained vehicles.
  2. Fixed toilets must be installed in order for a vehicle to be certified as self-contained and may either be a cassette-type toilet or one with a black water holding tank. Further detail on what constitutes a ‘fixed toilet’ is still to be released. 
  3. Improved regulation of vehicle certification and registration to ensure better oversight of the certification process and the tighter application of agreed standards.  A national database of certified vehicles will also be available for prospective vehicle purchasers and to assist in Council enforcement.
  4. Stronger enforcement mechanisms include a graduated system of infringement fines up to $1000 and easier and quicker systems for collecting fines.
  5. Extending the application of the Freedom Camping Act to land managed by Waka Kotahi – New Zealand Transport Agency and Toitū te Whenua – Land Information New Zealand. 

Timeframe of changes

Implementation of these changes relies on the phasing out of the current system for certifying self-containment of vehicles (the blue stickers) to a new more centralized one which will be based on a new system of certification with proposed green stickers.  The main difference between blue and green stickers is that vehicles without fixed toilets – such as those using Porta-potties, will not be able to be certified as self-contained (using a blue sticker) beyond the 2023/24 summer.  By the summer of 2024/25 the blue stickers will no longer be valid so vehicles without a fixed toilet can no longer be classified as self-contained.  Implementation is expected to start in late 2022 or early 2023 when Government is proposing to change the Freedom Camping Act. 

Please visit MBIE’s website for a detailed outline of the timeframes and how they will affect where and how freedom camping can take place.

Implications for NZMCA members

There are three main impacts on NZMCA members as a result of these changes. 

Phasing out of portable toilets for CSC

Under the proposed changes, members who own vehicles without fixed toilets will be unable to freedom camp on public land which is restricted to certified self-contained vehicles only...READ MORE

Changing of certification regime and technical requirements for CSC

The certification regime and technical requirements for CSC will change by way of new regulations...READ MORE

Stronger enforcement and infringement penalties

Stronger enforcement and infringement penalties will apply to all freedom campers including members...READ MORE

NZMCA current position

The broad changes listed above will most likely occur given the clear signal from the Minister of Tourism and wide public support for them. 

The NZMCA acknowledges most of the changes are worthwhile and necessary, although we will be advocating for an outcome that doesn’t unfairly punish members with well-designed vehicles that rely on portable toilets.

Changes to the Freedom Camping Act and its supporting regulation are likely to happen in late 2022 or early 2023. The detail of these proposed changes is not known and probably still needs to be developed by Government officials. NZMCA will take every opportunity it has to work with officials in developing this detail including those around certification of self-containment, definitions and standards especially around fixed toilets and the application and scale of infringement fines.

This page will be updated as this work unfolds and as the picture becomes clearer for what these changes mean for NZMCA members.   

Downloads

On behalf of the NZMCA Board and National Office, thank you to the many, many members who contacted us over the past few weeks with their feedback on the governments freedom camping discussion document. With over 105,800 individual financial members we anticipated receiving a wide range of views on each of the four proposals, which helped shape the Association’s submission. We have expressed our concerns with the government’s proposals that could unfairly disadvantage thousands of kiwi families who are responsible campers. However, we also recognise the need to protect our taiao (environment) and freedom camping’s social licence within our communities. To that end, the NZMCA has recommended an alternative solution that priorities the introduction of a new regulatory system and policies designed to reduce overcrowding by enabling landowners to open more areas for overnight parking. The Board acknowledges freedom camping is of significant importance to over 90% of members. Please be assured the Association will continue to fight for your rights to freedom camp responsibly throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. (Sharron King , President and Bruce Lochore, CEO).