Camping
All you need to know about camping

Many ravellers in New Zealand use cars not only to travel, but also to sleep in. Looking for appropriate camping place is so a daily task for many of us. So how is the camping in NZ?

Campings in New Zealand

Both islands are covered by campings of different conditions, quality and prices. Basically we can devide them following:

  • commerical campings - fully equiped, no restrictions, high comfort and prices
  • DOC campings - basic eauipment, really cheap (mostly $6 per person and night)
  • marked places where you can stay for free (SC only often, but not always)
  • freedom kemping

To find great spot for overnight stay you will definitely need following apps and website:

  • Official Camping NZ - free
    Download: Android, iPhone
    This Rankers NZ app is official. Places you find here are aproved by local authorities.
  • WikiCamps
    Download: Android, iPhone, Windows
    Unofficial app contains not only campings, but also places allowed for overnight stay and attractions. Wikicamps sometimes has more information then OCNZ which are not official but comes from experience of other travellers.
  • CamperMate
    Download: Android, iPhone
    Very similar to WikiCamps, includes Nový Zéland, and Australia.
  • Essential New Zealand
    Download: Android, iPhone
    App of website https://www.newzealand.com/ where you find places to visit.
  • Official website with camping places, the same as Official Camping NZ app.
  • WOnderful map of attractions to visit with many parameters to filter.
  • Official website of Department of Conversation where you can find many information about national parks, toutist tracks and camping opportunities.
  • Official website od New Zealand association of campervan owners. You can find here some more information about places to stay for free

Freedom kemping

Freedom kemping (camping in free nature) is a hot subject especially for backpackers. It is not only about saving money, it is always the desire to spend time in freedom nature, not to be squeezed between other backpackers. To stay in romantic places where you can´t see anybody else. On the other hand there is a risk of being fined for staying in illegal places. So how to enjoy freedom camping and minimize the risk of loosing money?

  • Follow information from apps mentioned before
  • If you are not sure, alway assume the worse scenario
  • Check the local council website
  • Check carefully all signs
  • Freedom camping is a privilege, not a right. So always think twice.

If you wanna read more about freedom camping, there is a conversation between DOC and one of our friends

Hello ,

Thank you for request re Freedom Camping questions and rules in New Zealand .

I am very pleased to see that plan to stay in standard camps and huts as a norm, although you feel you may need to freedom camp at some times.

This is not an issue as long as you follow the laws that each District Council sets up ( unfortunately they are not always consistent) and the Department of Conservations (DOC) national system of 'prohibited and restricted sites". I-Sites and Visitor Centre's will be more than happy to help you with information on sites where you can freedom camp.

If you have access to the internet you can check definitions at the public legislation website at https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2011/0061/latest/whole.html#DLM3742891

But generally:

Freedom Camping Act 2011, S.5 Meaning of freedom camp:

(1) In this Act, freedom camp means to camp (other than at a camping ground) within 200 m of a motor vehicle accessible area or the mean low-water springs line of any sea or harbour, or on or within 200 m of a formed road or a Great Walks Track, using 1 or more of the following:

(a) a tent or other temporary structure;
(b) a caravan;
(c) a car, campervan, housetruck, or other motor vehicle.

(2) In this Act, freedom camping does not include the following activities:

(a) temporary and short-term parking of a motor vehicle;
(b) recreational activities commonly known as day-trip excursions;
(c) resting or sleeping at the roadside in a caravan or motor vehicle to avoid driver fatigue.

(3) In subsection (1), camping ground means:

(a) a camping ground that is the subject of a current certificate of registration under the Camping-Grounds Regulations 1985; and
(b) any site at which a fee is payable for camping at the site

Great Walks Track means:

(a) a track specified in Schedule 1; and
(b) any other track specified by Order in Council made under section 44 as a Great Walks Track.

The Freedom Camping Act applies in both Local Authority areas, and Department of Conservation areas. For Local Authorities freedom camping is permitted in any local authority area unless it is restricted or prohibited in accordance with bylaws and where restricted sites will normally be promulgated in council maps and usually signposted.

For conservation land, freedom camping is permitted in any land controlled or managed by the Department under a conservation Act unless it is restricted or prohibited in the NZ Gazette and published on the public DOC website or available at local DOC offices. Most restricted areas will also carry signage.

Questions and answers from DOC

Q: How exactly is unlawful camping defined? At what point can I be fined? Does the official need to find me sleeping in my car?

A: If a warranted Freedom Camping Enforcement Officer has reason to believe a person is freedom camping, then they are empowered to issue an infringement notice. Equally if the person infringed believes this is wrong they are entitled to contest the notice in Court as with any other type of infringement fine notice. Defences are outlined on the back of the infringement notice issued.

Q: I stay up late in a place I like and decide to drive overnight. Can I be fined while relaxing in my camping chair at night at a spot where I am not allowed to freedom camp? I will not be sleeping there at any point.

A: You need to explain your circumstances to the Enforcement Officer. If he has reason to believe you are freedom camping, then he is empowered to issue an infringement notice. Your rights are as in A above.

Q: I sleep in a camp but decide to head out early to see the sunrise. Park my car, get out my camping chairs or even a blanket to relax on and get breakfast going. Can I be fined by misunderstanding?

A: You need to explain your circumstances to the Enforcement Officer. If he has reason to believe you are freedom camping, then he is empowered to issue an infringement notice. Your rights are as in A above.

Q: If I want to take a nap during the day in my car but I will not be staying overnight. Can I be fined?

A: Very unlikely

Q: I have black tainted windows in my car and curtains as well. When I leave my car overnight to go for a multiday hike can I be fined because an official might think I am in the car?

A: You need to explain your circumstances to the Enforcement Officer. If he has reason to believe you are freedom camping, then he is empowered to issue an infringement notice. Your rights are as in A above.

Q. Are there any regulations for leaving my car overnight in public parking lots? (For example am I allowed to leave my non-self-contained car in a self-contained vehicle zone when I am not sleeping in it? What about view points / car stops along the roads.

A: No regulations. You have the same rights as any other day visitor in that situation

Q: What happens if I park in an area where I see no signs prohibiting freedom camping, drink some wine and then find out I am not supposed to be there. At this point I will not be allowed to drive. Can I take a nap and wait until I fully sober or will I get fined for this?

A: You should not be approached by anEnforcement Officer if there are no signs prohibiting freedom camping. If you are found to be infringing, but haves been drinking, an officer may well issue an infringement notice at the time but has the discretion to allow you to remain onsite until the following morning, but with advice that if they do not move on when fit to drive, they may incur an additional $200 infringement fine.

Q: Is camping in tents allowed on the Great Walks if you build them out of site of the tracks? I prefer to stay in cabins but it they are full I would like to have this option. I have read that with the exception of Milford Sounds this is allowed but that not many people know of it.

A: Bylaws on Great Walks including the Milford Track prohibit camping outside of designated campsites and 500 metres either side of the track. You may book approved campsites onallGreat Walks

Q: Who can give me a fine? Only policemen or are there any other officials with this right?

A:Both Department of Conservation warranted FCA officers and District Council warranted FCA officers can issue infringements fine notices dependant on the jurisdiction the offending person is in. Police Officers are not warranted under this Act.

Q: I have found this website with some very interesting information.

https://gonewzealand.about.com/od/Budget-Travel/a/Freedom-wild-Camping-And-The-Law-In-New-Zealand.htm

"In many places around New Zealand you will find signs that have been erected by the local council prohibiting overnight parking or camping. Some councils have even placed "blanket bans" in their entire region or restrictions such as no overnight parking within a certain distance of a campground or urban area. A few councils have tried to appear to be appeasing the campers by banning freedom camping in general, but "allowing" certain small and specific areas to be used for overnight camping. They have even been backing up their position by appointing officers to patrol the region and 'move people on' if they are found to be freedom camping in a non-designated area.

In actual fact, all of these actions by local authorities are not lawful under the Freedom Camping Act 2011. The law did allow some time for the councils to bring their by-laws into line with the Act, but this time has now passed."

Is it correct?

A: I cannot answer this one for you, you would be best to contact the Department Of Internal Affairs ( DIA) with this request . This department has oversite of the Councils and Territorial Authorities that the website above is discussing.

My advice to you is that freedom camping in New Zealand is a privilege not a right and goes hand in hand with a responsible attitude where non self-contained camping is contemplated.