Tougher rules for freedom campers and increased penalties for rule-breakers are on the way.
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said new proposed laws, which will be introduced to Parliament in 2022, aimed to protect New Zealand’s reputation as a high-quality tourist destination.
Nash said despite the Government investing $27 million in freedom camping programmes since 2018, there were still issues with the disposal of human waste.
Among the changes included in the Self-Contained Vehicles Bill are:
- Requiring campers to stay in a certified self-contained vehicle to stay overnight on land managed by local councils, unless the council has designated the area for non-certified vehicles. A new regulatory system will allow vehicles with fixed toilets to be certified as self-contained.
- Allowing freedom campers in non-self-contained vehicles to stay on Department of Conservation land and use its facilities, unless DoC has formally restricted or prohibited it in that area.
- Higher fines and penalties of up to $1000, which replaces the current $200 fine.
- Freedom campers can continue to stay overnight in tents, where permitted.
It follows consultation with the public earlier this year, with many of its suggestions going ahead.
Once the Bill is passed, the changes would be introduced over two years so people have time to meet the new standards, Nash said.
The Government has already said it would put $10 million into helping with the transition. This money will go to helping councils educate freedom campers and develop local bylaws over two years.
“We are setting clear, minimum expectations for campers. Higher standards must be met before vehicles can be certified as truly self-contained with fixed toilets,” Nash said.
“Abuses in the past included campers slapping bogus blue stickers on vehicles to falsely claim compliance.”
He said small business owners who run backpackers’ hostels or campgrounds could also benefit from the changes.
“Hostels and campgrounds are perfect for the budget-conscious traveller who may have considered freedom camping in the past.”