FREEDOM CAMPING AROUND NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand is a paradise for motor caravanners!
We've been travelling around New Zealand in our motorhome since February, 2013, and have been able to visit some stunningly beautiful locations around our coastline during that time.
From isolated beaches with no facilities at all, to council managed reserves with a parking area, toilets, and often water, there is no lack of places to enjoy if you want to go exploring.
However, we've also been quite surprised to note the variation between council regulations concerning free camping as we've worked our way down both coasts from Cape Reinga to the Bluff.
Some councils welcome motor caravanners, making provision for free overnight parking for certified self-contained vans, while others post signs forbidding it - often for no obvious reason.
There is also confusion between 'camping' and 'overnight parking', and it is sometimes confusing as to which is allowed. In our view, a fully self-contained motorhome or caravan doesn't need to camp unless you open out the awning, and set up the barbeque and deck chairs.
It used to be that you could camp, or park overnight, in almost any public area around our coast. However, we now have something in the order of 70,000 motor caravans in New Zealand, including overseas visitors, and this opens up our pristine clean beachs and reserves to abuse.
Campers that leave litter, and even excrement might be in the minority, but you don't need a high percentage of 70,000 to have a massive impact.
That is clearly a problem for the councils and organisations who look after these locations, as it requires staff and costs money, to keep these locations clean and in good repair.
Unfortunately, the councils also face vigorous lobbying from some of the owners of campsites and holiday parks, who view free overnight parking as a competitive threat.
See the sign displayed above, where visitors are told in blunt terms that 'Overnight parking is no longer available', and to use the 'Camping facilities available at:' - and then provides a list of campsites.
We'd like to be quite clear on this - we use campsites as well as taking advantage of free parking in some of our beautiful locations while travelling. We also stay in DOC sites, Auckland Regional Council sites, and NZMCA member only sites.
We keep returning to campsites to connect to power, top up our batteries and water, have a decent shower and use the dump station. It's a matter of finding the right balance.
We've stayed at some excellent campsites, while others have been disappointing. It is not the role of councils to tell us where to stay - campsites are mostly private businesses after all.
If campsite owners provide what visitors want, then they will attract customers. And more visitors will come if they have a choice of different camping opportunities. .
It should be recognised though, that anyone who has invested in a fully self-contained motor caravan, is also looking for opportunities to stay at some of our most beautiful and interesting natural locations, and that most campsites do not address this opportunity.
Motor caravanning is a booming business that is likely to continue growing for the forseeable future. There is room for all options, and having access to all options will also contribute to growth.
Travellers can make a substantial economic boost to our rural and more isolated communities. And we will be attracted to go where we know we will be made welcome.
The NZ Motor Caravanners Association has been at the forefront of negotiating with government and councils to resolve this problem in a way that allows responsible motor caravanners to park overnight at more of our public locations.
The key is for motor caravanners to be certified as self-contained, and then to be responsible to leave every location as they found it.
Good progress has been made, but this remains an ongoing battle.
Our view is that public locations in New Zealand are exactly that. While not all locations may be suitable for overnight parking, most are.
Visitors who want to park overnight should certainly be travelling in a certified self-contained motorhome or caravan, and they should respect the environment and leave it as they found it.
Failure to do so should attract a very large fine. Sites where litter or other abuse is a problem, can be fitted with solar powered security cameras. However, a sign welcoming motor caravanners, but also advising them of the cost of abusing their privilege, should be sufficient.
We would like to see New Zealand being promoted as one of the most welcoming countries in the world for responsible motor caravanners, and as one of the most intolerant of those who would abuse this privilege.