Freedom camping in New Zealand is changing for the better

Freedom camping New Zealand

Freedom camping is a once in a lifetime experience and New Zealand offers some of the best routes. Source: Shutterstock

JUST you, the open road, a camper van, and a different destination every night. 

While it sounds like a faraway dream for many people wanting to escape busy city life, it’s actually an adventure everyone can easily have.

It’s known as “freedom camping,” and New Zealand is one of the best places to experience it.

Not only does New Zealand boast stunning natural settings to camp in, the government and local businesses are constantly coming up with ideas to improve the experience of freedom camping.

One of the most recent developments in freedom camping innovation comes from a South Island solutions company, KiwiCamp.

KiwiCamp is the brainchild of Chris Wagner, a seasoned freedom camper who wants to install basic service facilities on camping routes across South Island, following on from its success in Blenheim, Marlborough.

The newest edition of KiwiCamp is being rolled out in Rūnanga on the west coast of South Island with investment from the government’s US$5.6 million (NZD 8.5 million) freedom camping investment fund.

Freedom camping rules apply to different vehicles. Source: Mark Mialik / Unsplash

The simple yet innovative fabrications are sustainable, affordable, and durable in design and offer “smart payment technology to make life easier for both operators and users.”

Ablution blocks will be installed in designated freedom camping sites and provide free toilet and recycling facilities for everyone.

They will also offer budget amenities including showers with solar heated water, a laundrette, dishwashing facilities, and access to WiFi and charging points.

And when we say budget, we mean your bank account won’t even notice.

  • Free secure parking
  • Free waste recycling station
  • Hot Showers – US$1.30
  • Dishwashing facilities – US$0.33
  • Laundry facilities – US$2.65
  • Power charging points – US$0.66 per hour or US$0.33 half hour

To make KiwiCamp’s facilities even more user-friendly, Wagner and his team have set up KiwiCash, a micro-payment platform to use at the services.

“Using near field communication (NFC) technology your KiwiCash card identifies you and connects you to your online KiwiCash account,” KiwiCamp explained.

“This allows you to make secure, easy payments for services with a tap of your card on one of our card readers.”

However, this payment option is currently only available at the Blenheim campsite.

Blenheim KiwiCamp ablution building. Source: KiwiCamp

The announcement of the newest addition to KiwiCamp comes with the release of the Responsible Camping Working Group report commissioned by Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis.

The report focuses on the legislation and regulations regarding freedom camping, which haven’t been revised for 33 years.

But some industry players, such as Top 10 Holiday Parks chief executive David Ovendale aren’t happy that the rules of freedom camping in New Zealand might be rewritten to accommodate budget campers.

Ovendale told Stuff that establishing budget campsites such as KiwiCamp where campers would be staying in close proximity to fit more people into one site “would be uneconomic.”

“We’re the most seasonal business outside the snow industry, and we can’t afford to give it away in the high season,” he added.

“We make 12 months revenue in four months, so asking parks to discount to accommodate a lower margin freedom camper in a designated area is seriously not going to fly.”

But Ovendale won’t have to worry about any major changes just yet as Rotorua MP Todd McClay told the New Zealand Herald that there wouldn’t be any legislative change in freedom camping for at least two years.

Source: Shutterstock

So, until then, here’s what you need to know about freedom camping in New Zealand.

The rules epend on what type of vehicle you’re traveling in: self-contained or non-self contained.

If you’re traveling in a self-contained vehicle, such as camper van which can function without outside resources, you can generally camp on district council land and Department of Conservation (DOC) land.

However, each council has their own rules so decide on the district you want to camp in, then check here for restrictions.

Freedom camping New Zealand

Most lakeside spots in New Zealand are fine to camp in but always check. Source: Shutterstock

If you’re traveling in a non-self-contained vehicle, you’ll need to find a designated campsite or car park with a nearby toilet block.

Backpacker Guide NZ has useful and up-to-date information on where you can find freedom camping sites in North Island and South Island.

The basic rules of freedom camping remain the same wherever you are though.

  • Never just assume you can camp wherever. Always check for signs and don’t camp on private land.
  • Always clean up your rubbish. Either take it with you or put it in the bin.
  • Never go to the toilet in public even if you think nobody’s watching. Either use your campervan toilet or pull into public loos.

Happy camping, campers!