Is Camping in a Public Park Illegal?
Freedom camping in New Zealand. Doesn’t that sound great? That’s what you’ll be able to experience when visiting New Zealand. Freedom camping means that you can park your campervan in lots of great spots — within reason. There are some rules, of course. It is legal and free, if you’re parked in the right spot. But, when you hire a campervan in New Zealand, make sure you read up on the rules and regulations, as local authorities are able to fine people who are not in designated camping areas.
So how do you know where to camp?
Areas designated as public camping grounds are definitely legal. This is quite different than just freedom camping in New Zealand. Many are free, but if there is a fee, it is usually no more than $20 per night. Look for campgrounds run by New Zealand’s DOC, or Department of Conservation. You can even look online before you go, so you can better plan your campervan trip.
DOC actually runs over 200 campsites that are the best camping spots in New Zealand. About 50 of them are free, with the others charging a minimal campervan fee. If you’ve seen a breathtaking picture of a New Zealand beach, lake or interior beauty, chances are the DOC has a camping spot there. Some of the best camping spots in New Zealand are at the many national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Areas. In fact, New Zealand has three UNESCO sites: Te Wahipounamu, Tongariro National Park and the Subantarctic Islands.
DOC camps are very popular and attract people from all over the world who hire a campervan to explore this country’s breathtaking scenery. New Zealand is no different than any other country. There are rules, but they’re reasonable for campers to follow. For example, let’s say you’re a fisherman. You can fish in New Zealand, but there are rules and limits for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.
If you’re planning on doing a lot of camping, you can get a DOC campsite pass. This is a great way to enjoy the abundant campsites on the North and South Islands. Check the DOC website to determine what amenities are available at each campsite. Many of them are in very remote locations, which don’t have powered campsites, for instance. DOC campsites are just as good as freedom camping in New Zealand.
Protecting the land
New Zealanders love their land. In fact, their culture feels a special connection to the land, and they take seriously their responsibility to be guardians of that land to protect and preserve it for future generations. Ask any local and they will tell you that this duty of care has been instilled in them from a young age.
Therefore, New Zealanders respectfully ask that campers also have respect for the land. They call it the Tiaki Promise, and ask that if you hire a campervan, you don’t harm the land in any way, leave no trash and camp responsibly. Freedom camping in New Zealand is legal, but it is asked that you don’t leave any trace behind. They truly believe that if you look after the land, it will look after you and future generations.
The bottom line is that there are literally hundreds of designated camping areas in New Zealand, If you’re not sure if you can go freedom camping in New Zealand, don’t assume you can. Use common sense and ask to find out.