Freedom Camping in New Zealand

What Freedom Camping Is

Freedom camping is a popular activity in New Zealand, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. It’s a great option for motorhome holidaymakers, as it allows you to keep your accommodation costs down.

Freedom camping, by definition, is being free to camp wherever you want, rather than on a campsite you have to pay to stay at.

Sounds good, right? If only it were that simple.

The Freedom Camping Act

red-42662_640It’s a paradox, but freedom camping in New Zealand is restricted. In 2011, just before the country was inundated by a tidal wave of Rugby World Cup tourists, Parliament passed the Freedom Camping Act. You can now receive a $200 instant fine for camping in the wrong place. (And be fined up to $10,000 for incorrectly discharging your motorhome’s waste.)

This may seem harsh, but something had to be done. New Zealand needs to be kept beautiful. Although most campers are sensible, respectful people, there are always those that leave their rubbish behind. Understandably, this annoys the locals.


The problem with trying to freedom camp in New Zealand is different regional councils have different rules. This can cause confusion amongst campers. Where exactly are you allowed to camp? The best thing to do is ask at each local tourist information centre.

Freedom Camping in a Motorhome

CampervanIf you plan on freedom camping during your New Zealand motorhome holiday, make sure you hire a self-contained motorhome like this one. You should not attempt to freedom camp in a motorhome that is not self-contained.

A self-contained motorhome is a motorhome that has its own toilet, shower and sink, and can go for a minimum of three days without having to refill its freshwater tank or discharge its waste. You should only discharge your motorhome’s waste at designated dump stations.

When freedom camping, you should use the toilet and shower in your motorhome, or public toilets and showers, not the natural environment.

Think of the Locals

A good attitude to have when freedom camping is to put yourself in the local people’s shoes. Will your chosen spot inconvenience anyone? If you think it will, be a reasonable person and find another spot. Just use your common sense. Don’t camp in a supermarket car park, or on the street, or near traffic. Don’t camp somewhere that has a ‘no camping’ sign. Don’t litter, don’t damage the environment, and only discharge your motorhome’s waste at designated dump stations.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask a local for advice. Kiwis are amongst the friendliest people in the world.

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