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Predictable problems with the new CSC green warrant system

Bette Cosgrove


A gaze into the green crystal ball of hope for a consistent, reliable freedom camping vehicle certification system, designed to protect our environment and keep it ‘clean and green’, reveals an extremely stormy and very cloudy future with a lot of unhappy campers, confused councils and extremely overworked, stressed vehicle inspectors.


Potentially 99% of the camping vehicles currently fully certified self-contained with fixed cassette toilets will be non-compliant under the new regulations.


Government and the PGDB


The Minister for Tourism, Hon Matt Doocey has the power to extend the transition period (up to 2 yrs) for private vehicles certified prior to the law change. This could provide added time to review these problematic regulations.


For the thousands of fleet-hire vehicles which must all be upgraded and re-certified by December ‘24, if their customers are to be eligible to freedom camp, there is no support, no extension and very little hope.


The impossibility of getting the system working properly by the legislated deadlines has been signalled by the PGDB (Plumbers Board) responsible for implementing the new scheme.


Given the lack of inspectors (only 29 nationwide, Feb ’24 ), there is little chance those whose self-containment expires in June this year will be able to get a new green warrant, and the law prevents them renewing their blue warrant: no more freedom camping for them.


The Responsible Camping Group of the Ministry of Business, Industry and Enterprise (MBIE), is waiting for the Minister of Tourism to request that they revisit the problematic regulations. Does he know? Will he do it?


If the regulations are to change, perhaps the Minister might be inclined to rescind the bizarre fixed-toilet requirement at the same time — this was a promise made by National MPs prior to the election. Being self-contained is the point (or is supposed to be). See p10.


Certifiers and inspectors


The major current certifier networks across Aotearoa have yet to take up the role of Certifying Authority or to train their nation-wide roster of inspectors. It will be months, well beyond June ‘24, before they can begin issuing the new green warrants.


Councils: bylaws and enforcement


Councils will continue to be confused and out of pocket as they are required to implement and enforce the new laws.


BYLAWS: Some received funding to make bylaws. But of the 69 local authorities only 39 have published the required freedom camping bylaws and we’ve seen only half a dozen other councils starting the bylaw process.


Councils who have welcoming and open policies for freedom camping but no bylaw, must now create one in order to continue to provide free camping for all. To provide space for non-self-contained campers (or those self-contained to the old standard), it must now be specifically designated in a bylaw, a lengthy, expensive process.


ENFORCEMENT: Councils are now tasked with enforcing the new law, a cost to locals which may never be covered by revenue from fines. If councils choose not to enforce the new law, there will be no national consistency, a specific goal of the 2023 law changes. It’s inevitable we will continue to see clouded and confused council interpretations of the new laws. Already we’ve seen over-zealous districts trying to enforce fixed toilets ahead of time, and officers unlawfully insisting on inspecting inside vehicles. Ensuring their officers abide by the legal limits and responsibilities of enforcement is another (and urgent) task for councils. See Enforcement p12.


Is it possible? worth the cost? the hassle?


There is a turbulent market ahead for fixed-toilet appliance sales. If everyone wanting self-containment must retro-fit a fixed toilet plus vent system how will they obtain these from RV suppliers? No/low stock or supply chain issues will mean tens of thousands of campers won’t get what they need, or find the tradespeople to retro-fit them, in time to meet the 2025 deadline.


Both the retrofitting and the certification process is expensive and only useful for freedom camping. The blue warrants do the job for all other camping. Is it worth the effort and cost?


What’s the vision for the future?


Many eligible campers are likely to be unable to get the green warrants in time, and will be forced out of freedom camping, if the regulations don’t change and the new system is not delivered in the time the law sets out.


This is an immensely sad loss for NZ travellers, and for the next generation, many of whom will be effectively barred from freedom camping. Only the well-off with large vehicles will be able to meet the increased cost and carry on enjoying freedom camping.


The tourism industry will also be adversely affected. There will be fewer of NZ’s most lucrative tourists, those who enjoy a long slow journey around the country, who contribute more than wealthy hotel visitors who jet in and out on short stays. The cost of retrofitting will raise motorhome hire costs; much of the rental fleet may be barred from freedom camping at all.


Paid campgrounds, already full at peak times, are likely to be overwhelmed by those without fixed toilets, both international and domestic. DOC sites and affordable regional sites may become overcrowded and over-used, and this could lead to a decline in the quality of the space or potentially lead to closures.


The net result of these law changes is likely to be unhappy and fewer travellers and a tarnished national tourism reputation.


 

Articles in this issue on the freedom camping law changes:

The 29 inspectors would need to re-certify about 260 vehicles per working day to update already-certified vehicles by the Jun ’25 deadline: IMPOSSIBLE

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