Comment: Free Camping

The law also depends on how you "camp" as there is no legal definition of "camping" in legislation.
For example in NSW there is often a misconception that in a campervan, car or caravan that you cannot stop on the side of the road. As many of us know council often put up illegal signs and Rangers often try threats to move you on, however, in NSW the law is quite clear: where it is legal to park it is legal to stop. This right is protected under the Local Government Act in NSW; But this only applies to anything called a "Road" as defined in the Roads and Traffic Act but does not apply to parks etc. Basically if the Police can book you for a traffic offence it is defined as a "road".
In NSW there are also provisions under law for resting in Travelling Stock Routes and other rest areas but you have to know where these are. Boat ramps etc are other areas where you can stop. But the real catchall and escape for almost all these problems in NSW is the phrase: "I feel I am too tired to drive" or "I don't feel well enough to drive". Once said not even the Police can force you to move on (although they have the power to issue nuisance "defect" notices to encourage you to move on). If you are in a dangerous place they do have the power to move or tow your vehicle!
I am not sure how other states apply so perhaps some may like to comment on other states. I know Tasmania is excellent for free camping and I also know that the "no sleeping in vehicles" rules in Victoria have been successfully challenged several times.
In other countries i.e. NZ they have introduced the "self contained" camper system. Basically if your vehicle qualifies i.e. has shower, toilet, internal cooking, grey and black tanks it carries a green sticker and you can stop basically anywhere you want.
This is a really important thread that perhaps needs to be expanded into an ExplorOz guide for members.
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Reply By: tim_c - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 09:23

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 09:23
Very good points Jon.

Interestingly, driving in rural Victoria you will be continually passing road signs warning of the dangers of fatigue, but ironically, wherever you might find to pull over, there will be signs saying you can't "stay overnight", "sleep in vehicles" etc. - bit of a mixed message?!

Various NSW councils have also tried rules against "erecting shelters" with the idea of preventing people from putting up tents. This is only further clouded by the rising popularity of 'beach tents' - with lawyers now constantly circling us all overhead like vultures looking for their next 'feed', would any council be crazy enough to ban the use of a 'beach tent' to protect someone from being sunburned?!

In many cases, at least in NSW, you will find that attempted prohibitions on camping are usually adjacent to a commercial caravan park or similar. I'd expect the signs have been erected due to pressure from the caravan park owners for one of two reasons:
1- they are worried about losing potential income from people 'free camping' nearby - my sympathies run very shallow in this case (as if they should get a council-sanctioned monopoly on camping in the area?!), or
2- people decide to 'free camp' next to a caravan park, and yet still feel entitled to use (at not cost) of the amenities provided by, and at cost to, the caravan park and its paying clients. - in this case, I can fully understand and sympathise with a caravan park owner trying to prevent this.

I'd expect that even the excuse "I feel too tired to drive" would require you to find somewhere safe to pull over and stop - at the very least, you have a duty to other road users, and becoming too tired to drive is not something that suddenly happens without warning.
AnswerID: 510712

Reply By: Grant L - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10:35

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10:35
Thanks Jon and Tim,
Very interesting posts.
Just like to recount an incident in country Victoria a few years ago, when early one morning I came across a B Double stopped with flashers going in middle of left had carriageway (no body in sight engine idling, driver asleep) I quietly kept going.
Some time later spoke to trucky who confirmed that it was occasionally done in Vic if no hard stand close to pull off roadway.

AnswerID: 510717

Reply By: Member - Murray M2 - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 00:45

Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 00:45
I would think that if some Ranger or Police Officer told you to move on, even after you explained that you are too tired or unwell etc and for some reason you are involved in an accident shortly afterwards they could be held to account. I know when I was in local govt law enforcement this was always a thought. I would just say I will be back tomorrow to check if they are still there, then MAYBE consider move on. However if the person say's they are ill or whatever I wasn't qualified to say that they are not..
I believe common sense prevails as to how long you stop.

AnswerID: 510770

Reply By: pepper2 - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 09:20

Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 09:20
In my area of nsw there is a beachfront national park,this has a graded dirt road approx 500metres long with designated parking areas alongside.The road is used by the locals to launch small boats directly into the ocean,there are no camping signs,people park in the parking areas every day,(as day visits) could this mean that we really can stay overnight ,say either sleeping in car or swag???
AnswerID: 510778

Follow Up By: jon jenkins - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 10:03

Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 10:03
National Parks in NSW are an interesting issue because some roads are "excised" i.e. they are not part of the National Park (there are technical reasons why this is done). If it is a "road" under the Roads Act and there are no parking signs to the contrary you can stay there. "No camping" and "No overnight staying signs" are meaningless and illegal; you can tell this because they have no indicated fine or legislative reference printed on them. We have occasionally been fishing at night and have parked in and around areas like this many times.

However if it is a National Parks road (it will be in the detailed NPWS map!) then they are a law unto themselves; they can do whatever they want including search, seizure, detain without warrant or even cause and you have no right to silence: you must answer ANY question they put to you about ANYTHING! They can even refuse you access to a phone call or legal counsel if they really want to!

Again this is such an important issue to almost everyone that drives a 4WD that ExplorOz might consider obtaining a proper legal opinion on the situations in various states????
FollowupID: 788890

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