2/09/2022·3 mins to read

New requirements for Freedom Camping vehicles to be self-contained

The Self-contained Motor Vehicles Legislation Bill (the Bill) was introduced on 25 August 2022, and proposes amendments to the Freedom Camping Act 2011 (FCA), as well as the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Act 2006.

In this FYI, we provide a brief outline of the Bill and identify some potential implications of the changes.

Overview of the Bill

The Bill follows Government consultation in 2021 on four proposed changes to support sustainable freedom camping. A key public concern which emerged during that consultation related to freedom campers staying in vehicles that were not certified with self-contained toilets. Other concerns raised include litter, overcrowding, campers staying too long, and a lack of infrastructure. 

The Bill addresses the issue of non-self-contained vehicles, by requiring that vehicles used for freedom camping must be certified as self-contained.  In practice, ‘self-contained’ will mean that, as a minimum, the vehicles must have fixed toilets. This is a departure from today’s requirements, which allow for either fixed or portable toilets.

Freedom camping in vehicles that are not self-contained will still be possible, but only on sites designated by the relevant council in a bylaw, or by the Department of Conservation. 

The Bill does not address the other concerns raised during the consultation process, such as campers staying too long or a lack of infrastructure.  Nor does the Bill appear to include any amendments that would effectively exclude homeless people from the reach of the FCA, despite the explanatory note to the Bill stating it is “not intended that the Bill will penalise people who are staying in tents or vehicles because they are homeless”. 

Key change and transitional provisions

The key change is the new requirement for vehicles to be self-contained, which includes having a fixed toilet and will involve a certification process overseen by the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Board (Board). The Board will also be responsible for:

  • maintaining a register of self-contained vehicles;
  • approving individuals and organisations as self-contained vehicle certification authorities; and
  • monitoring and auditing certification authorities.

Immediately after the Bill is passed, a vehicle will not be able to be certified or recertified under the existing standard (NZS 5465:2001, which will be phased out over time), unless it has a fixed toilet. Until recertification is needed, compliance with the existing standard will suffice during the transition period (up to eighteen months for rental vehicles and two years for all others).

Six months after the Bill is passed, regulations prescribing the requirements for self-containment will come into force. This will enable certifications to the technical requirements in those regulations to begin, so that vehicles with fixed toilets can start to be certified ahead of the 18 month or 2 year cut off.

Two years after the Bill is passed, a vehicle will only be certified as self-contained if it meets the requirements in the regulations. 

Other features of the Bill

The Bill also strengthens the infringement system by enabling an enforcement officer to serve an infringement notice on a registered vehicle owner (if the officer believes that the vehicle was used in an offence) and allowing for infringement notices to be emailed, which is aimed to assist rental companies in more easily recovering infringement fees from rental vehicle hirers.

It also extends the FCA to include land managed by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency (Waka Kotahi) and Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand. With Waka Kotahi’s consent, Councils may make bylaws that apply to Waka Kotahi land in their districts.

Implications for bylaws

The Bill makes it clear that existing freedom camping bylaws will continue in force through the transitional period. It does not, however, indicate what happens to those bylaws at the end of the transitional period, or how they are to be applied during that time. In particular, it is not clear how references to the standard in bylaws are to be interpreted, and how this might impact any enforcement action during the transition period.

Timing for submissions

The Bill received its first reading on 30 August 2022 and has been referred to the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee.  The submission period closes on 13 October 2022.

Get in touch

Our experts have extensive freedom camping expertise, having advised a range of clients on various freedom camping issues and bylaws.

If you would like assistance understanding the Bill and its implications, or with making a submission, please get in touch with one of our experts.

Special thanks to Chris Ryan and Shanae Richardson for their assistance in writing this article.


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