- Thousands of vehicles could soon be excluded from self-contained vehicle areas.
- Freedom is not going to be free.
- The National Party is against the bill, saying it unfairly punishes many responsible freedom campers.
Government targets freedom
The Government is introducing new legislation aimed at self-contained motor vehicles. The claimed objective is to reduce negative impacts of freedom camping, which typically involve waste, litter, nuisance, or harm to sensitive flora and fauna.
Retiring Tourism Minister Stuart Nash originally introduced the bill in August 2022, after a discussion with former Mayor Jim Boult of Queenstown, where freedom campers have clashed with locals in the past. It was designed to clean up public spaces from the significant mess created supposedly by freedom campers. Incidentally there are over 150 workers in Queenstown currently unable to find reasonable accommodation, who live in their cars.
The bill requires vehicle-based campers to use a self-contained vehicle, that has been certified as such, when staying on Council, Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) and Waka Kotahi land. The exception is if the site is specifically designated for non-self-contained vehicles.
It establishes a centralised system for the certification and registration of self-contained vehicles, making it mandatory for vehicles to have a fixed toilet to be certified as self-contained.
Over 70,000 hire and private camper vans, rooftop tents, teardrop campers, and classic small caravans will be affected by the change.
More power to the people (in charge)
The law gives councils more power to ticket and expands the Freedom Camping Act to include land managed by the New Zealand Transport Agency and LINZ. It allows new regulations to be made, including the requirements for certification, fees, and infringement fines.
New registrations and rentals will have six months to meet the rules.. Others will have two years. After this, all vehicle freedom camping on public land must be certified, unless in a designated area for non-self-contained vehicles.
Six months after the law is enacted, certification authorities managed by the Plumbers, Drainlayers and Gasfitters Board, will be issuing green warrant cards.
Freedom is not going to be free
All Points Camping Association has estimated the cost of self containment certification checks will increase by around $120.
The law change may push those with smaller campers towards more costly campgrounds due to no longer being able to attain certification. This will disproportionately affect those who cannot afford a high-end full-service motorhome and instead use a van or pop-top for their local adventures.
The bill will allow dispensation for those living in vehicles due to being unable to find suitable accommodation, a further complication to enforcement.
National pulls support
The National Party has pulled support for the bill. They argue the bill, as drafted, restricts freedom campers unless they have a fixed toilet in their vehicle. They say the problem is not the type of toilets campers have – it’s whether or not they use them.
“Unless it’s re-drafted, this measure will unfairly punish the many responsible New Zealanders who have suitable non-fixed facilities, and use them regularly. It will impose unreasonable costs and unnecessarily restrict recreational activities.”
They say Labour will unfairly penalise more than 70,000 otherwise responsible campers with this legislation.