March 26 2019 by E.L., Former Camping Ambassador
Freedom camp [free-duh-m kamp]: the practice of putting up tents or parking up campervans in areas not designated for camping.
Touchy: easily upset, needing to be dealt with carefully. People are hiring or buying campervans in droves.
NZ is such a desirable destination, and seeing it at your own pace and without spending much money makes this kind of tourism a very popular option. Some campervans are self-contained, meaning there is adequate toilet, fresh and waste water storage on board to permit a minimum three-day-stay away. Having a certified self-contained camper is an advantage, as it permits you to camp in remote places without requiring external services. However, some rental agencies actively promote cheaper, non-certified vehicles – hugely appealing to the thrifty traveller who arrives penniless while wanting to see it all.
I spent the summer working as a Responsible Camping Ambassador and I quickly learnt how crazily complicated freedom camping is. Every day, multiples of campers arrived (to the Hub) in assortments of cars and vans (many of these adorned with dream-catchers and potted cacti). Once parked, these vehicles unfold into a kitchen, bedroom, dining room and laundry, with socks hung out to dry on the steering wheel. While campers can be commendably inventive and incredibly engineered, for many of these vehicles, a bathroom never fits. The space a toilet requires is just the right size for something more important, so it’s dispensed with. After all, there are toilets along the way, right?
Every day I’d explain to campers that ‘freedom camping’ didn’t actually mean they could camp anywhere they liked. I advised them about our deficient infrastructure (read: a complete lack of toilets on the route). I cautioned them about the disapproval they might encounter from Mr and Mrs New Zealand, who didn’t always approve of freedom camping. Further, the issue of our easy-to-fake certification system kept coming up. If you are a rule bender you will adore the certification process. Presently unregulated, it’s so full of loop-holes that it’s simple to jazz up forged documents and certificates. You could easily rip it off if you wanted to.
Personally, I don’t care about certification, as it does so little to stop a camper from disrespectfully abluting in our woodlands. When they’ve gotta go they do go, absolutely anywhere. In my view, what matters most now is finding the best solutions to fix the many problems freedom camping has. Responsible Campers Association say camping responsibly depends on the camper, not their campervan. It can be argued that enforcing self-containment on travellers is not the point; it’s the behaviour of the person camping that needs attention and certification. How do you do that? The Responsible Campers Association Incorporated website’s worth a read (accreditedcampernz.com).
Former Camping Ambassador