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Freedom camping, what are the rules?

Malmo, Sweden
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Freedom camping, what are the rules?

Hello,

We will be spending a month on New Zealand in February and we're trying to figure out the concept of freedom camping but the information available is very conflicting. We are from Sweden and when hiking we are used to be able to put up our tent (or just sleep under the stars if the weather/insects allow, they seldom do, though...) whenever we find a pretty spot but we realize it doesn't work like that everywhere. Camper vans/caravans or huts/camp sites is not really camping to us so our ideal trip would be to drive around and stay at different B&B:s and then do a couple of 2-4 day hikes every now and then but we don't know if that is possible in New Zealand. So:

1) Are we allowed to put up a tent if we stay away from roads/private property etc? Are there special restrictions in e.g. national parks? Obviously we are very responsible campers (=leave no rubbish, if there are no toilet facilities dig a hole for human waste and use biodegradable paper, no fire etc)

2) Is it possible/safe to park our rental car at the starting point of the hike?

Could anyone explain how it works? Thanks!

New Zealand
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for South Island
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1. Re: Freedom camping, what are the rules?

Welcome to the Kiwi forum :)

Great to have you ask before arriving. I too love tenting and NZ offers some exceptional spots to camp in relative isolation.

However you are not able to camp ANYWHERE in public spots which has no loo. If you find a landowner with land then certainly ask, but don't even think of camping in picnic spots, lakes shores etc. There is a $200 fine for illegal camping.

You will love DOC (Dept of Conservation) camps - they are often in stunning locations and are seldom busy. …govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/…

Are you planning to bring your own tent? make sure it is exceptionally clean with no dirt, mud or grass seed - it will be inspected on arrival in NZ. Also ensure the tent pegs are spotless.

www.camping.org.nz/new-zealand/where-to-camp/

Most trailheads are safe to leave your car - do ensure all belongings are stored out of sight

Hope this helps :)

South Island
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for South Island
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2. Re: Freedom camping, what are the rules?

Freedom camping rules are different from one area to another. I would suggest you visit the DOC offices and isites in each area and get up to date information on the area you are visiting.

I spend most of my summer holidays free camping and don't agree with banning freedom camping. You appear to have a responsible attitude to the out doors and I would encourage you to seek out the quiet areas and freedom camp where you are able. Its a great way to travel and if you are of the protect and preserve mindset go for it.

I normally park my vehicle at track car parks when tramping and the only problem I have ever had was in a car park in Northland. It can happen to anyone anywhere at anytime but if you take the normal precautions you should be OK.

Malmo, Sweden
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3. Re: Freedom camping, what are the rules?

Thank you! Can we count on finding DOC camps everywhere or are there tracks where huts is the only option?

New Zealand
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for South Island
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4. Re: Freedom camping, what are the rules?

DOC camps are listed on both links I posted above.

Some walking tracks allow camping in designated spots away from huts, some are huts only, no camping. Read each track description to see which is which.

Christchurch, New...
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5. Re: Freedom camping, what are the rules?

Hi, I am also a strong advocate for freedom camping around New Zealand. Nothing beats finding an isolated spot then pitching your tent well away from others. I have travelled extensively by cycle around the South Island just pitching up where I have ended up each day and never had an issue as long as you stick to the local rules and obey the signs. Here is a link showing the department of conservation areas you are NOT able to freedom camp in.

Enjoy your travels

…govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/…

Christchurch, New...
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6. Re: Freedom camping, what are the rules?

When you're out hiking on a track and away from roadends, generally you can camp anywhere on Conservation Land (National Parks and Forest Parks). You should camp responsibly, as you have described.

However on roadsides and at roadends generally you cannot freedom camp, and there are some other exceptions, mainly around Great Walk tracks - where you can only camp at designated campsites, or for some if you go at least 500m away from the track. Check out

…govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/…

and browse through the rest of the DOC website too.

Yes you can leave your car at the end of the track. It is reasonably risky re break-ins, so if possible leave all your non hiking gear somewhere secure eg see if the last backpackers you stayed at will agree to store it for you. Make sure you leave as little possible visible in the car. I have spent more than 100 days out hiking in the south island, with a car left at a roadend, and have not had a break-in yet, although I always leave the car empty and the glovebox open so any would-be thieves can see there is nothing hidden in it.

Have a great trip

Christchurch, New...
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for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
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7. Re: Freedom camping, what are the rules?

You definitely shouldn't dig holes for toilets in National Parks (how would you without carrying a spade?). The only National Park area that I know of where camping in banned is along the Milford Track - one tiny portion of the vast Fiordland National Park.

DoC campsites will have basic toilets and flat ground for tents.

South Island
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8. Re: Freedom camping, what are the rules?

I disagree Zhuhai, digging holes to bury human waste is preferable to leaving it above ground even in National Parks. Many holes have been dug without the use of a spade, use a rock,stick,hands or whatever.

You may need to revise the idea that the only place in the Fiordland National Park where camping is banned is along the Milford track. There are also many other areas in this park where camping is not allowed.

Inverness, United...
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9. Re: Freedom camping, what are the rules?

I slept in my car mainly across the North Island, parking at tracks near to toilets and always kept the area clean and tidy around. However I did get fined in the Coromandel by a very nice council woman who pointed the rules out, although I was in a reserved freedom camping zone. Point is make sure you have a self contained vehicle if using these spots. Failing that, B&B's, hostels, etc :)

Christchurch, New...
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10. Re: Freedom camping, what are the rules?

Use the toilet if there is one.

If there isn't (some people do tramp off-track and away from all facilities) and you are above the snowline, or on rock, then you take a poo container and carry your waste out. If you are in bush or alpine scrub then burying it is standard. Obviously it must be buried well away from any watercourse. Trampers do carry trowels for this purpose! (I do).