As there is so much misinformation in the public domain concerning freedom camping, it seemed like a good idea to set the record straight. You see, across New Zealand the law states that freedom camping is permitted, except where it is not. It’s a conundrum we all have to face. To further complicate things, bylaws are constantly being amended at a local level.

It is perhaps not all that surprising that there is so much misinformation within the public domain. Only last week I was sent a story that claimed to be a complete update on freedom camping. It was so breathtakingly ill-advised, I wondered what the author had been taking.

No wonder, with this sort of guideline to go by, there are so many abuses of the Act by travellers in non-self-contained vehicles. And even for law-abiding citizens with self-contained vehicles, it’s hard to get up-to-date advice, given the ever-changing local bylaws. Fines for getting it wrong are hefty, and wardens – quite rightly in many instances – are having a field day.

Despite the rash of fools who will tell you otherwise, freedom camping in this country remains a privilege not a right. So when it comes to parking up for nothing – and not attracting a fine – the many motorhome-friendly towns across the country that will welcome you with open arms are a good start. These cool towns have made it their business to offer places for you to park up and feel safe. Good on them. All 47 of them. I have listed them at the end of this story.

The important thing to remember when deciding to freedom camp anywhere in New Zealand is there is no one size fits all. With 67 local authorities  across the country, each with their own set of rules, and with those rules changing all the time, it pays to check if it is legal to stay and play – before you pour yourself a celebratory drink look first for any signs that might tell you otherwise. Especially look for that standard red and white sign that tells the story in plain language (any language you choose) that it is illegal to linger for longer than a photo.

If the signage says it is legal to freedom camp in your chosen place, note any restrictions of time. Be aware that these may be out of date. To be sure, look for local amendments to the freedom camping rules on the websites of each of the regional councils.


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