Review: Free Camping

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Good article Michelle.
As Jon points out here in NZ we have the Freedom Camping Act. This requires all campers to be certified “Self Contained” This will entitle you to camp anywhere overnight except within 200 mtrs of a sign saying you can’t. Councils are not allowed to have blanket “No Camping” within their district, though some are still trying it with creative interpretations of the Act. Camping associations here are challenging some councils in court with high success rates so far.
As an experienced freedom camper throughout NZ and Australia I am well aware of the issues that wind the locals up, mainly the human waste mess.Well the new laws here have not made any difference to the mess problem in camping areas around towns. The campers have gone unless they are self contained but the day trippers and the local kids getting drunk at night have not, go figure.
On the subject of camp ground owners, what gives them the right to have anti competition laws in their favour, no other private business enjoys that. One doesn’t have to look far to see result of these no competition rules, rising prices and falling service.
The anti freedom camping lobby can’t seem to get past the money issue. I would suggest that only a small number of freedom campers do it to get a free ride. The vast majority do it to avoid the sardine effect and to enjoy the solitude, me included.
The answer is up to us, vote with our feet (or steering wheel) and be very vocal about it on the way out of town.
Clive G.
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Reply By: cloudseeker - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 14:52

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 14:52
I haven't yet made it to Australia but this is precisely what I asked about in previous threads.

One solution to this problem - I don't know if Australia has this - might be to create lots of primitive organized campsites. The corollary in the U.S. is B.L.M. campsites. They cost little (last one I remember I paid $5/night), they're often spread out and peaceful, and you get vault toilets and a table. That's it. Solves the problem. It's a step down from free camping as far as wilderness, but its a fair compromise to at least take care of the majority of the campers. Free camping should still be an option, but a few simple amenities are attractive enough that it would reduce the impact of too many travellers.

There are also similar campsites in some national parks. How nice they are really depends on the specific location and on the effort put into it. I can't stand organized campsites in general, and I do like these.

So does this exist? If should.

I don't really like the idea that vehicles must be self contained, in the NZ example. I like to sleep in a tent and don't want to mess with a campervan. Not my thing.

AnswerID: 510734

Follow Up By: Member - Clive G (NZ) - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 18:01

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 18:01
There is a steady expansion of that type of camping in NZ. It’s a sort of half way house between true freedom camping and commercial camp grounds. Cost are around $5-8 per person per night with kids mostly free. If a toilet facility is on site then the camper doesn’t need to certified. This allows small vans and tents in.

The certified camper system is intended for the totally no facility areas. I should have made that clearer.
FollowupID: 788857

Follow Up By: SCUBADOO - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 18:16

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 18:16
Clive - quote:
"As Jon points out here in NZ we have the Freedom Camping Act. This requires all campers to be certified “Self Contained”"

Clive I have read the Freedom Camping Act 2011 several (many) times.

Could you please point to a clause that mentions ANY reference to "Self Contained" or "certified" anything.

I have not seen any.

Read it carefully and it will be VERY apparent that even a tent user is included in the "Freedom" here in NZ much to the concern of many councils.

Read or download it here:
Freedom Camping Act 2011

FollowupID: 788858

Follow Up By: Member - Clive G (NZ) - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 19:25

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 19:25
Like all Government regulations the devil is in the detail. Look in paragraph 11 section 1 (a). This shows that the Govt didn’t to want to get involved with the detail so a strange hole was left in the act.

The regulations regarding the actual operation of Freedom Camping areas was left to the local authorities involved. I have yet to see a local authority (or the Dept of Conservation) that does not require campers to be certified to Self Containment NZS5465 (Displayed) if there are NO facilities provided, though there may some areas that I have yet to come across. More fool them if they haven’t covered themselves.

It’s a shame that both in NZ and Australia there are some local authorities who would rather teach campers a lesson rather than grabbing an opportunity that could benefit their area. As Michelle hints in her piece, emotions tend to get out of control.

Yes a tent could in theory be certified but it would be difficult to comply on a given day.

FollowupID: 788862

Follow Up By: Roge - Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 18:10

Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 18:10
As a number have already stated, there are many different styles of "camping", from 5th wheelers to the humble swag. From my experience those who mistreat the privileges afforded to them are those who simply just don't care. The majority of us conduct ourselves in preserving the bush, facilities available, and consider our fellow travellers.

The lower cost concept is a great idea and I believe one worth exploring. On our recent travels we also came across the trend of free camp sites in small towns/villages being "Gold Coin Donation" which is either used for the upkeep by the local residents/ council or went to a suitable fund.(RFS, SES, RFDS etc.) Most of the travellers we have met & spoken to, do try & support the local community. However in these towns, there is either a below standard caravan park for which you pay $25+, or no park at all.
In NSW, entering a NP can cost $7/vehicle plus $10 each as an average. These charges will provide you with at least a drop toilet, table and a secure location. The question is is it value for money? The honour fee style is from experience a failure but could be managed to a simple low cost alternative. Some Forest NSW areas have free camping with similar facilities, but often dominated by trail bike riders and noisy at best, but are none existent as an alternative in the far west. Both are Government organisations, and by law are required to provide these facilities. Both these organisations, as well as some councils (whilst not openly encouraging free camping) see the benefit of having people in attendance as it reduces vandalism, anti social behaviour etc.
The majority of tourists on the vast open road are the self funded retires or self, partially or totally funded pensioners. A small proportion are permanently on the road. This group are experts in reducing the cost of travel & are dependant on free camping facilities as well as the occasional caravan park.
If government organisations can fund the areas where the need is in small towns & remoter regions, then the caravan parks can invest in the popular holiday & main tourist routes.
Just my thoughts.
FollowupID: 790112

Reply By: Member - odbod - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 18:58

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 18:58
Without doubt the matter of free camping is a problem state by state. The two articles by Jon and Clive(?) spell it out well and the best suggestion is a combined action to have all caravans, motorhomes certified as being independent ie the green sticker as mentioned.
I'd be a real starter to help with this. The "I'm too tired or I don't feel well" are not going to last, we need a properly respected AND, I might add, earned position to free camp, there are simply too many out there who will not play fair and wreck it for all. So, folks, get behind a move to have it formally certified your accommodation meets requirements.
I can hear the cry now, "it's our right to free camp" and maybe it is but if you have a proven right wouldn't it be better?
AnswerID: 510750

Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 20:14

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 20:14
We haven't been to NZ unfortunately but I would be cautious about simply importing a system lock stock and barrel into Australian conditions without recognising how local conditions differ from those in other countries. While our east coast and SE and SW corrners are busy there are vast inland areas to consider too. How would this proposal be implemented there. Also we have a lot of travellers here who use camper trailers, tents, swags etc - not everyone travels in a caravan or motorhome, especially if they are heading inland.

Maybe a good place to start is to really define the perceived problems that are in need of solutions. Otherwise it could end up with those of us who currently do the right thing get penalised for the sake of the inconsiderate minority.


J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein

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FollowupID: 788866

Follow Up By: Member - Berylvt - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 10:46

Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 10:46
The issue of toilet paper littering many bush campsites leads me to feel that ALL campers in camps without facilities should be self contained. Even tent campers can have a portable toilet! If you have no loo -don't bush camp. And if we don't self regulate in this way bush camping will be taken from us.

I would support a system of "self contained" certification for RVs and "limited self contained" for tent campers, camper trailers etc who have their own toilets .
FollowupID: 788894

Reply By: Des, Lynley & Millie - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 10:17

Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 10:17
We travel around this lovely country all the time and free Camping is the only way we can afford. We are kitted out with Solar, Gene, Gas bottle fire, and a caravan with Ensuite. Having just finished 13 weeks of travel, we stayed 3 nights in a CP at $15 per night making the total cost of accommodation $45. We stayed at beautiful sites and always followed the Leave no Trace. We usually stay for 7 to 14 days in each spot if it is allowed,( and when pension day comes off we go again) As pensioners we would not and could not travel if we did not have these places to stay, and as the public in the towns where we get our petrol and supplies tell us that they are keep going by us on the Road. If we were not able to do this, then we would have to be kept by the Government in a State house or similar. I KNOW WHAT AND WHERE I WOULD SOONER BE..... Travelling with our Penthouse behind us..
AnswerID: 510782

Reply By: Member - odbod - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 13:54

Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 13:54
Bang on Berylvt, there is no excuse for the festooned trees. This is not about who has money/class distinction, tent or motorhome, it's about being a reasonable and clean living person. You can guarantee if free campers don't clean up their act we will be legislated out of the opportunity.
No one would foul there backyard so why be a pig in the scrub, there is nothing more off-putting than a pile of used toilet paper.
A sensible approach, a proper preparation and we all win, don't and we'll lose it.....guaranteed. If you can buy a tent, buy a portable loo with it, and if you do get caught short, dig a decent hole, 300mm/a foot at least.
AnswerID: 510799

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