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Enforcement of freedom camping rules

Miriam Richardson

This is ordinary language and guidance only.

Check the legislation yourself for the precise wording and detail†.

Offences to avoid when freedom camping

These offences are in Freedom Camping Act 2011, Offences Part 3, Sections 20, 20A, 20B, 20C, 20F, 20G and the infringement fees/fines are $400 up to $10,000.

  • Camping where it is not allowed.

  • Not having a valid warrant.

  • Not displaying a valid warrant.

  • Having more people than the vehicle is certified for.

  • Display or present an altered or fraudulent warrant or self-containment certificate to an enforcement officer.

  • Make preparation to freedom camp (“park a motor vehicle” or “erect a tent” “to use it for freedom camping”), where it is not allowed, or with too many people.

  • Refuse to leave an area when told to by an enforcement officer (see next column).

  • Refuse to give, or give false or misleading information to an enforcement officer (see next column).

  • Bad behaviour towards an enforcement officer: prevent, impede, threaten, intimidate, use abusive or threatening language, or behave in a threatening manner (penalty up to $5k).

  • Interfere with /damage the environment while camping.

  • Deposit waste, not in a ‘proper receptacle’.

  • Discharge “noxious, dangerous, offensive” substances that cause “a significant concern to” residents, people living nearby, or other users of the area (penalty up to $10k).

Who has to pay

Freedom Camping Act 2011, Section 26

Any or all of the following:

  • The person committing the offence.

  • The registered owner of the vehicle.

  • The person legally entitled to be in charge of, or the person using, the vehicle.

Knowing or not knowing you have been ‘infringed’

Freedom Camping Act 2011, Section 27

You may never know...

.... you have been issued an infringement, and you might never receive it.

These notices can be handed to you, attached to the vehicle, emailed, posted to the last known address of the person, or posted to the registered vehicle owner’s address.

Any email delivery problems, out of date postal addresses, having no access to a postal address, not being the person who committed the offence (eg the vehicle owner rather than the camper), makes no difference: you are deemed to have been served.

When the officer presses the email ‘send’ button, the email is considered properly delivered to you. When the normal postal delivery time has passed (anyone’s guess how long that is nowadays!), anything posted is considered delivered to you.

What information must enforcement officers give?

Freedom Camping Act 2011, Section 34

They must show evidence of appointment, if you ask. It must show their responsibilities and powers and the offences they have been appointed to monitor.

The must tell you, if you ask, what offence they believe you have committed (or are committing), if they ask for personal details.

What information are you required to give?

Freedom Camping Act 2011, Section 35

Personal information

You must give your full name, date of birth, full address, email address, telephone number, and occupation, IF an enforcement officer believes, on reasonable grounds, that you have committed or are committing an offence.

If you are asked for personal information you are entitled to ask what the offence is that the officer believes you have committed (or are committing) and the response must be reasonable.

You must also give personal details for, and the whereabouts of, any other person, connected in any way with the alleged offence (penalty up to $3k).

Self-containment certificate

You must produce the self-containment certificate, if asked, but they can only ask IF the enforcement officer believes, on reasonable grounds, you have committed or are committing an offence by camping or preparing to camp where not permitted.They have no right to inspect the vehicle. We have reports that enforcement officers in Kaikoura are being encouraged to do this, regardless of its illegality. See p18.

You can be required to leave

Freedom Camping Act 2011, Section 36

Enforcement officers may require you to leave an area, but they must believe, on reasonable grounds, you are committing (or have committed) an offence.

Impounding things

Freedom Camping Act 2011, Section 37 & 38

Enforcement officers may seize and impound a motor vehicle or any kind of unit associated with a vehicle that can be used for camping (eg., caravan, poptop, teardrop, rooftop tent) (or a boat), if it is being used (or has been used) to commit an offence and it is “reasonable in the circumstances”.

What counts as “reasonable”?

The Act give some requirements: if “it is necessary” to protect health, safety, the environment, or to maintain access to an area. But, even if none of those things are true, if it “is, in the circumstances, the most appropriate action to prevent the ongoing commission of the offence.”

Before impounding, the officer must:

  • tell the person to stop committing the offence,

  • advise them that impounding is on the cards,

  • give them “a reasonable opportunity to stop committing the offence”.

To get your vehicle back you have to:

  • Convince them you aren’t going to commit the offence again.

  • Pay for all the cost of the seizing, impounding, storing.

  • You also have to pay any penalties/fines related to the offence that initiated the impounding.

If your vehicle is damaged in the process of impounding, the cost is yours unless they were unreasonably careless. If you haven’t got your vehicle back within 6 months, they can dispose of it.


 Check the law yourself:


Articles in this issue on the freedom camping law changes:

infringement fees/fines are $400 up to $10,000

, p


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