Freedom camping in New Zealand needs new regulations

 Monday, February 22, 2021 

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Freedom camping has been a long tradition in New Zealand. Making use of your own vehicle as accommodation and parking in public spaces is quite common.


But when international tourists started to opt for this cheap and cheerful way to see the country, things began to change. Foreign freedom camper numbers grew from 10,000 in the early 2000s to an overwhelming 123,000 by 2018.


This enormous growth predictably led to antipathy in local communities, bringing crowding at car parks and beach fronts, road congestion, littering and campers destroying the natural environment.


The latest tourism report this month from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment highlighted four main recommendations for better parameters of freedom camping in Aotearoa New Zealand.


The report argues regarding using the disruption caused by COVID-19 to reset the tourism industry as sustainable and internationally competitive in a climate-conscious world. Hence, the old freedom camping model is arguably unsettled to be reformed.


The Freedom Camping Act 2011 (FCA) defined comprehensible conditions and definitions. The act referred to camping in a tent or vehicle in a public space 200m off a road, coastline or Great Walk hiking track.


Based on the controversy around freedom camping, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment made the following recommendations:


• Vehicles need to have a permanently plumbed toilet in order to be self-contained, and vehicles should also have separate holding tanks for grey and black water.
• The government should reintroduce national supervision of the certification process […] and a national register of self-contained vehicles.
• The government would ensure freedom camping penalties representing a serious deterrent to undesirable camping behavior.

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