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Hey NZ Govt? You are messing with my mental health

Gary Stoneley

I go camping for my mental health. Bev and I have done this for over 25 years. It is our choice to go camping with a caravan, but I could use my Elgrand van if I wanted.

I’m not happy with the NZ Government interfering with my choice of leisure time by restricting how I go camping. I consider myself a responsible camper and pretty much everyone I know is. Whether they have a tent, trailer camper, small van, housebus or caravan I have rarely seen fellow campers not respecting the environment.

I remember in the 1990’s staying at a campsite somewhere, or maybe on a caravan club rally and being taught how to remove a patch of turf (to be replaced later) and let the kitchen waste water soak into the ground below the surface, or to have a bucket with a couple of holes in the bottom so all the solids were kept and water drained away. A loose cap on a waste container did much the same. That’s not something you see so much any more. It wasn’t uncommon for the caravan waste water to be used to water trees, away from activity areas. Any residual food matter was soon gobbled up by hungry little animals.

Campers now, are far more aware of the negative effect of chemicals and the health risk of not disposing of waste water properly. But it’s not unusual in a rural setting to be told, just dump it on the ground or around trees. Didn’t dishwater deal to aphids on plants? 

The expectations placed on campers are now much higher than they were 20 to 30 years ago. The first New Zealand Self-containment Standard was published in 1990 and was a joint effort by multiple organisations and government departments working together. Initially only covering motorhomes and caravans — people were living in these it seemed — the Standard set some minimum expectations for both the occupant’s health and reducing environmental harm. A real plus about this was that weekend camping events could be held at venues like schools or reserves without facilities and organisers could say their campers were self-contained and took all their waste with them. It was an extension of the Caravan Club and wider camping adage of ‘Pack in, pack out’. 

Skipping forward a quarter of a century and self-containment has become a government regulatory tool for NZ’s vehicle campers. Yes, it is targeted and policed at those who chose to camp in a vehicle, with considerable infringement fees. And it is affecting my mental health and the mental health of thousands of NZ campers and our supporting industry.

Why is the NZ government restricting and penalising NZ campers, who choose to use a vehicle to camp rather than a tent?

Our family caravan has a permanently fixed, sealed, toilet, but the NZ government wants us to fit an external vent to it. It’s pointless and will just fumigate the camper next door. My trusty Elgrand I can’t enjoy for camping anymore, unless I permanently fix a toilet into it. Well that screws up putting sheets of gib in it now. It’s stressful just thinking about all this. Should I even bother getting a new ‘green’ warrant card for freedom camping? If I don’t submit, where can I camp at no cost? 

Hey, NZ Government, Stop screwing with my leisure time activity! It’s affecting my mental health! I just want to go camping. It’s healthy, its fun, and it keeps me sane.

“Camping in all its different forms puts us on the doorstep of the great outdoors and provides a clear pathway to a healthier and happier lifestyle – one in which people appreciate nature more and are active outdoors. Given the many negative events that have been happening in recent times at home and abroad, anything that helps people to feel better about themselves and each other is vitally important.” Sabina Voysey, The Camping and Caravanning Club’s Director General

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DOC has also given us articles about 'outjoyment'


Articles in this issue on the freedom camping law changes:

I just want to go camping. It’s healthy, its fun, and it keeps me sane.

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