Freedom camper clampdown: Mandatory toilets, $1000 fines to flush out abuse

Freedom camper clampdown: Mandatory toilets, $1000 fines to flush out abuse

Tough new freedom camping laws aimed at preventing abuse and enhancing the country’s tourism reputation will be brought in next year, the Government says.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash last year lamented bad campers and indicated he was examining rules to stop international tourists from hiring vans without toilets.

“We get all these vans driving round at the moment that are not self-contained, so the driver or the passenger wants to go to the toilet … they pull over to the side of the road and they s*** in our waterways.”

Now he plans to follow through, with a new law expected to flush away abuse from next year.

“We are setting clear, minimum expectations for campers. Higher standards must be met before vehicles can be certified as truly self-contained with fixed toilets,” Nash said today.

“Backpackers in budget vehicles are welcome. Motor homes and towed caravans are welcome,” he added.

“Despite Government investment of $27 million in freedom camping programmes since 2018, there are still problems, including the inappropriate disposal of human waste.”

The minister said some small communities had suffered an unfair burden.

“Abuses in the past included campers slapping bogus blue stickers on vehicles to falsely claim compliance.”

He said when international borders re-open, tourism will not match pre-Covid levels but greater pressure can be expected.

New laws will mean freedom campers must be in a certified self-contained vehicle to stay overnight on land which local councils manage.

Freedom campers will be able to stay on DoC land in vehicles that are not self-contained, unless DoC has formally restricted or prohibited camping in such vehicles.

Freedom campers can continue to stay overnight in tents, where permitted.

But infringement penalties will increase from $200 to $1000.

“To be certified as self-contained, a vehicle will need a fixed toilet,” Nash said.

The Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board will oversee certification.

Nash said once the bill is passed, changes will be phased in over two years to allow vehicle owners time to ensure their vehicle meet the new standards.

The minister said the government has committed $10 million to help local councils educate freedom campers and develop local bylaws over two years, Nash said.

“Freedom camping will always be a valuable part of our tourism experience, but must meet minimum standards and respect our tourism brand.”

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