Freedom Camping in New Zealand Costs More Than You’d Think

Queenstown & Remarkable Mountains, New Zealand

Queenstown & Remarkable Mountains, New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Zealand hates freedom campers with a vengeance, mostly because of the mess some of them make but there is also resentment because they are perceived to be taking revenue away from established camp sites and other tourism operators.

Feelings run so high in New Zealand that Dick Waters, president of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, was once reported as having said

“Messy freedom campers who trundle around the country in sleeper vans without toilets or self-contained utilities should be “shot”

Yet companies are still renting out vans without self contained utilities and there is no law preventing them from doing so, so who is more to blame here?

Mr Waters’ remarks probably touched a raw nerve with the many campers who have suffered assaults and robberies whilst camping in New Zealand (see posts tagged Campsite Assaults) and with the families of victims that have met a violent demise whilst camping on the roadside.

Now another hazard has emerged for the unwary traveller in New Zealand – that of the camping bylaw infringement fine, be afraid be very afraid.

Wanaka and Queenstown council enforcement officers have taken to dawn raids to catch freedom campers in their districts, they’re armed with $200 fines and not afraid to use them.

According to one source they’ve issued over 511 fines since 22 December 2012.One of the hot spots is the Boundary St car park (Google Street view below) where, in the first two weeks of January, 47 freedom camping infringements were issued.


That’s 511 unhappy tourists wondering what they did wrong and why New Zealand rents them a van and then penalises them for using it. 511 additional tourists that are returning to their home countries adding their stories of modern day highwaymen to other stories of roadside muggings, beating and rapes in New Zealand.

But maybe that is the aim here – to discourage low spending tourists, to scare them off in the hope that they will be replaced by more affluent visitors?

Considering a holiday in New Zealand soon? chose wisely.

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