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Beach and dunes at Bay of Plenty in Tauranga, New Zealand

Freedom Camping in New Zealand

I’m currently in New Zealand evaluating a couple of business opportunities. After a few days of exploring the North Island, I have to say that New Zealand is now top of my list of places to go camping, specifically “Freedom Camping.”

New Zealand is a spectacularly beautiful country. The North Island has miles of pristine beaches, while the South Island boasts forests and mountain ranges.

New Zealand is also very pro-camper, much more so that the Western United States. One big difference is that the relative sizes of the camper trailers and motor homes are much smaller in New Zealand. I’ve seen many New Zealand motorhomes in the 20 to 23-foot range. I haven’t seen any of the giant Class A motor homes that we have in the U.S. That’s welcome news after spending the last three days driving on winding mountain roads while remembering to drive on the opposite side of the road.

I’m only spending time on New Zealand’s North Island and its current the end of their spring, so not peak camping season, but I’ve seen more than a few campers, caravans, camper trailers and mostly Class C motorhomes.

What is “Freedom Camping?”

New Zealand allows what they call “Freedom Camping” which permits camping in most public conservation land (similar to BLM land in the U.S. from what I understand). However, depending on the local council, there may be restrictions on some types of camping. Usually these restrictions on freedom camping in New Zealand apply to busier areas near roads, or where there have been issues or incidences in the past that warranted the restriction of camping and motorhomes.

The Freedom Camping Act does not apply to backcountry areas in New Zealand, so it appears if you can get far enough into the backcountry, as long as you respect the “Carry in, Carry Out, Leave No Trace” policy, then you’re not limited on where you can camp.

Restrictions on Freedom Camping in New Zealand

Each Local Council has the ability to place local restrictions on Freedom Camping. Typically, tent camping isn’t allowed and camper vans, caravans and motorhomes have to be NZS 5465:2001 certified. This certification means that the camper or motor home is considered “self-contained” and has a workable toilet as well as a grey-water tank if there is a sink and running water. The goal of the NZS 5465:2001 certification is to ensure that people camping aren’t leaving waste behind or overloading local restrooms.

Requirements for NZS 5465:2001 Certification

The requirements for certification are fairly straight-forward. According to the New Zealand government website, the camper, camper van or motor home must have the following:

Water tank requirements

  1. A freshwater tank that can hold a minimum of 4 liters per person per day for at least three days (12 liters per person minimum)
  2. The water tank should be made of non-toxic opaque material that will allow the water to remain potable. The reasoning behind the opaque material is to eliminate any sunlight that might promote algae growth,
  3. If the motorhome or camper trailer is connected to a city water supply, then a backflow valve should also be used

Toilet and waste water tank requirements

Most camper toilets that empty into a self-contained black-water tank meet the minimum requirements. Marine toilets however have to have a water tank separate from the potable water tank since the marine toilet pump may contaminate the water used in the toilet, thus making it unsafe for drinking. The black water tank also has to be big enough to hold at least 1 liter of water waste per person per day as well.

Where to get a NZS 5465:2001 certification inspection

It seems that the inspection process is fairly straight-forward and that you can use either a recognized Testing Authority like New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) or All Points Camping New Zealand. Interestingly, a plumber, gas fitter or drain layer can also be certified as a recognized Testing Authority for the NZS 5465:2001 certification

Recognized Testing Officers can also certify your caravan or motor home as long as they have the correct certification to do so. Again, plumbers, gas fitters and drain layers fall into this category, but other individuals can also become Recognized Testing Officers for NZS 5465:2001 certification.

How much does NZS 5465:2001 certification cost?

I was surprised when researching this article how inexpensive the certification was. If you certify thru the NZMCA, the cost is $30 (NZ) for the inspection and the certificate. All Points Camping charges members $10 NZ and non-members $30 NZ for the certificate once the camper or motor home has been inspected by a qualified Testing Officer

How long is the NZS 5465:2001 certificate good for?

The NZS 5465:2001 certificate is good for 4 years or 48 months, so overall, its a great bargain to qualify for Freedom Camping in beautiful New Zealand!