11 March 2019 / Campers

Freedom camping in New Zealand

Freedom camping is when you camp on public land that isn’t a recognised camping ground or holiday park. Make sure you plan your journey in New Zealand with respect to the area you camp in.

Where can you freedom camp in New Zealand?

Any DOC (Department of Conservation) and local council land. This ultimately makes your trip quite cheap. The bylaws vary from Auckland to Queenstown and everywhere inbetween; however, most areas require freedom campers to have self-contained vehicles – so it is best if you make sure your rental campervan has been self-contained. This way you are able to take full advantage of the beautiful surroundings New Zealand has to offer

The rules for freedom camping apply to:

  • Cars
  • Vans
  • Motor caravans
  • Campervans
  • RVs
  • Motorhomes
  • Caravans
  • Mobile homes

Fully self-contained personal or rental vehicles are needed for the protection of these areas and the environment, from waste and rubbish.

Rules for when you’re freedom camping in your personal or rental campervan:

Make sure you’re following the bylaws for the area you’re in. You can check these in any information centre or council office – you can Google these too.


  • don’t camp on private land
  • clean up any rubbish or toilet waste before you leave
  • use public toilets if you don’t have a self-contained rental vehicle.

Reporting problem campers:

For non-urgent matters, such as camping in prohibited areas or dumping rubbish, contact the local council office.


Look out for signs that tell you what is and is not allowed.

A round red and white sign with a red bar through a tent and caravan means camping overnight is not allowed – regardless of the vehicle being self-contained.

A blue sign with a white caravan and ‘SELF CONTAINED’ written beneath, it means camping overnight is allowed for personal or rental self-contained vehicles only.


Fines for camping illegally are not cheap. You can get an instant fine of $200 if you:

  • camp where you’re not allowed to
  • damage the area you’re camping in
  • dump waste or rubbish
  • refuse to leave an area when you’re told to leave by a person of authority
  • refuse to give information to an enforcement officer
  • camp without a toilet in a place that only allows fully self-contained

You can be fined up to $5000 if you’re convicted of behaving illegally towards an enforcement officer — either a council or DOC worker.

You can also get a court fine of up to $10,000 for major dumping of waste – for example: a campervan emptying its sewage tank onto public land.

Your cheap holiday that you planned doesn’t look so cheap anymore, if you don’t follow the rules!

Paying your fine:

You have 28 days to pay from the date of the fine. The notice will tell you how and where to pay.

If you don’t pay your fine:

  • you’ll get another notice for the fine plus costs and another 28 days to pay
  • if you still don’t pay, you could get a court summons and if you were renting a vehicle at the time of the fine; the rental company can charge the fine to your credit card
  • Customs NZ officers can also stop you leaving New Zealand through Auckland airport or any other airport if you have unpaid fines.