Freedom camping in New Zealand – The good, the bad and the ugly

One of the joys of travelling in the Kiwi Blog Bus in New Zealand is the ability to freedom camp in some of the most scenic spots you could imagine.


Ocean beach, Hawkes Bay

But on the other hand we are sometimes made to feel like criminals.

Freedom camping in  New Zealand has received a lot of publicity over the last few years, unfortunately it’s not all good.

The press love to run a good story about the terrible freedom campers who leave litter (and worse) around the NZ countryside.

Laybys used as toilet stops and that kind of thing.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s disgusting – but I also think there is a lot of blame thrown around incorrectly.

The irresponsible litter louts are often not even campers.

Rubbish left in laybys by cars full of youths.

Nappies thrown out of car windows.

We have seen vehicles drive off leaving pizza boxes and drinks cans on the floor.

We often stay, legitimately, on a reserve or other public area where cars visit during the evening for walks,picnics etc.
The morning brings a sign of just how many “visitors” drove off and left their litter behind.

We are supposed to live in a very clean and green country.
It’s becoming less so.
This lack of respect towards our environment is shocking.

But don’t blame it all on freedom camping.

We personally are responsible campers.

As owners of a registered self-contained vehicle (we have our own facilities for washing, toilet etc) we take pride in leaving no waste or sign that we’ve stayed somewhere overnight.

And I know most other NZMCA members do likewise.

Yes, I acknowledge there are some irresponsible campers out there.

Quite often the ones that get the publicity are tourists; here on a budget holiday, sleeping in a van that doesn’t have facilities and going into the bush to relieve themselves.

We even have rental companies that promote cheap campervan vehicles  – cars and small vans with sleeping facilities but no toilet.

We also have some excellent responsible motorhome rental companies that are making sure all their vehicles are self-contained and holiday makers are issued with details of where they can camp.

Many councils are coming up with their own designated camping areas for self-contained vehicles (and I say well done to those excellent regions such as Hastings, Gisborne, Bay of Plenty, Taupo, New Plymouth and others).
And the government is working on the problem and has introduced the Freedom Camping Act 2011 .

In the meanwhile, if you are visiting or planning to come to New Zealand and wish to enjoy its beauty while having the freedom of travelling the length and breadth of the country by campervan: Please be responsible, please be a careful camper and … Assume nothing.

And… for all other New Zealanders – don’t be so quick to judge a campervan owner.

Many (camping prohibited) beauty spots are a great place to roll up and park for an hour or two while you cook and eat dinner.
We often do this and then move on to our official overnight spot.
Don’t throw threats at us while we’re only parked.

Most campers are friendly and already know the rules without being given an ear-bashing or having regulations shouted at them.

Why not watch out for those picnic littering cars instead?

The Kiwi Blog Bus does not wish to cause any issues or create vigilantes but advises that if you are unsure of whether a vehicle should be parked up overnight and/or has left litter – why not discretely take a photograph or make a note of the registration plate and pass it on to the authorities.
The NZMCA has an online facility to check if a vehicle has a current self-containment certificate or not.

So …. please…. let’s be happy campers.

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4 responses to “Freedom camping in New Zealand – The good, the bad and the ugly”

  1. indiginz says :

    Hi, the truth is the litter bugs wont be campers but locals who have homes to go to. It is shameful. I have to say that it hasn’t always been like this. We have the ‘clean green New Zealand’ reputation because we did used to take pride in our place and grew up with manners and respect. That has changed since I was kid and even rapidly in past 10-15 years. Globalisation?
    I’m a staunch supporter of freedom camping and don’t want the Gov or local councils to regulate it. The bad press just gives them more of an excuse to make money. We have to defend what is free in this world. There isn’t much left. Great blog, i’ll keep an eye for updates (-:

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