Update: Self-containment and freedom camping changes
Gary Stoneley, NZ Lifestyle Camping Ltd
he Government’s recent changes to Freedom Camping and self-containment certification are now being implemented.
These changes mean that over the next 18 to 24 months new regulations may impact your freedom camping. However the changes only apply to free (not paid) camping, on council, LINZ land and some Department of Conservation land. The changes do not affect any overnight stays on private or commercial properties, other crown land, club sites or organised events nor anywhere payment is made.
Where camping on council land is
● allowed / designated for ‘ALL’ campers, or
● specifically designated for ‘non self-contained vehicles’ or
● paid sites, car parks etc.,
the new legislation / regulations should not affect your camping.
The existing self-containment standard (NZS 5465:2001) still applies and is recognised throughout NZ. Currently a campervan / motorhome etc. can be certified for self-containment whether it has a fixed / cassette or portable toilet.
However, new certifications with a portable toilet are not now recognised under the amended Freedom Camping Act for free camping on land as specified earlier‡. Such certifications remain acceptable for all other camping areas. From 7 June 2024 new certifications, under the existing standard (NZS 5465:2001), will also not be recognised under the amended Freedom Camping Act.
From 7 December this year, approved Certifying Authorities, once established, will be able to issue new certificates with green warrant cards for motor vehicles with fixed toilets. Such certificates attract a new government levy of $120 on top of any fees charged by the testing officers and certifying authorities. You will be able to choose the type of self-containment certificate you want.
Four levels of self-containment certification
From 7 December 2023, under the Freedom Camping Act there will be 4 levels of self-containment certification (3 blue and 1 green) which can apply and which councils will need to monitor.
It appears that there will also be 3 separate national registers of self-contained vehicles: the new Plumbers, GasfItters and Drainlayers Board register (green warrants) plus the NZ Lifestyle
Camping and NZMCA registers for blue warrants.
Certified Blue before 6/23, any toilet: OK to freedom camp on public land until 6 June 2025
Certified Blue: fixed toilet: OK to freedom camp on public land until 6 June 2025.
Certified Blue: portable toilet: OK on private or commercial properties, crown land (not LINZ or council), club sites, organised events and anywhere payment is made.
Certified Green: fixed toilet: OK to freedom camp on public land.
It should be noted that while the current self-containment standard is prescriptive, e.g. minimum fresh water, waste water and toilet capacities per the number of occupants, the new regulations are not prescriptive with no stated minimums. It will take some time to get consistency in implementing the new regulations. You will appreciate the issuing authorities and testing officers and councils have a lot to work through over the next few months to manage and apply the multiple systems.
We acknowledge the MBIE Responsible Camping Team for their three year endeavour ,and millions of dollars spent ,to make things so much simpler for local authorities and the wider industry.
• Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board: ckw.nz/pgdb-info
• MBIE — Responsible Camping Changes: ckw.nz/mbie-info
• Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers (Self-Contained - Vehicles) Regulations 2023 Download a pdf of this (398kb): ckw.nz/sc-regs-pdf
Government has worded the legislation to allow tent camping while enacting infringement fees for vehicle-based camping, on the same free-camping reserves (with or without self-containment and portable toilets). It seems unlikely that councils will adopt a policy that separates family camping groups and expressly targets certain campers.
Note: All NZS 5465:2001 NZ Standard self-containments remain valid for 4 years from the date of issue, but they are subject to freedom camping restrictions on council-managed land.
‡ Land affected by the new law: free camping on council, LINZ land and some Department of Conservation land.
? Can I still get a self-containment certificate for my vehicle with a portable toilet?
Yes, talk to your local testing officer. The new certificate with a portable toilet will not be recognised under the Freedom Camping Act which means there are limitations on free, public camping.
? Do I have to get issued with a new green warrant card (with $120 levy) after 7 December 2023 if I have a blue card and a fixed toilet?
No, a new blue self-containment warrant card is valid for 4 years. It will be recognised until 6 June 2025 for free public camping under the Freedom Camping Act.
Testing officers and councils have a lot to work through over the next few months to manage and apply the multiple systems.