Freedom camping is when you camp on public land that isn’t a recognised camping ground or holiday park.
Where you can freedom camp
This depends what part of NZ you’re in and what kind of vehicle you’re using. The rules about freedom camping apply to:
- cars and vans
- motor caravans
- caravans, or
- mobile homes.
You can camp in more places but only if your vehicle is fully self-contained.
A self-contained vehicle must meet the Caravan Self Containment Certification standard. You'll need to be able to live in it for 3 days without getting more water or dumping waste. It must have:
- a toilet
- fresh water storage
- waste water storage, and
- a rubbish bin with a lid.
Camping on district council land
Many councils will only let you freedom camp if your vehicle is certified as self-contained. You’ll need to contact the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association to get your certification.
Every district and council has different rules. Some won’t let you freedom camp within 1 km of the town, or will only let you stay in a carpark for 1 night. Council rules are also different from the rules you have to follow on DOC conservation land.
Make sure you’re following the rules for the area you’re in by checking with:
Look out for signs that tell you what is allowed.
Camping on DOC land
Freedom camping on DOC land is generally allowed. There are some places on DOC land where you can't camp because the site has a special value eg Māori burial site (urupa) or a protected plant or animal is there.
Rules when you’re freedom camping
- check where you can park or camp
- don’t camp on private land
- don’t leave behind rubbish or toilet waste
- use public toilets if you don't have a self-contained vehicle.
Fines for camping illegally
You can get an instant fine of $200 if you:
- camp or prepare to camp where you’re not allowed to
- damage the area you're camping in
- dump waste or rubbish
- refuse to leave an area when told to do so
- refuse to give information to an enforcement officer
- camp without a toilet in a place that only allows fully self-contained vehicles.
You can be fined up to $5,000 if you:
- are convicted of behaving illegally towards an enforcement officer (either a council or DOC worker).
You can also get a court fine of up to $10,000 for:
- a major dumping of waste eg a campervan emptying its sewage tank onto public land.
Paying your fine
You have 28 days to pay. Instructions telling you how and where to pay the fine will be on the notice.
If you don't pay your fine:
- you will get another notice for the fine plus costs and 28 days to pay
- if you still don't pay, you could get taken to court, and
- if you're renting a vehicle, the rental company can charge the fine to your credit card
- Customs NZ officers can also stop you leaving NZ if you have unpaid fines.