Freedom Camping Rule Change: What It Means When Hiring a Campervan

There is a great deal of confusion and misinformation surrounding self-contained vehicles and freedom camping in NZ, so we hope this blog will clear things up and help you plan your campervan trip. Of course, if you prefer to stay in paid campsites (and there are many low-cost options in beautiful, quiet locations across the country), then you don’t need to worry about hiring a van that is “certified self-contained”! Just choose a van that fits your style and budget and go!

So, let’s start with some basics…

sunlight northland beach

What is freedom camping in NZ?

Freedom camping is when you camp on public land that isn’t a recognised camping ground or holiday park. It is, as it suggests, “free” so no payment is required but it’s not quite as simple as just stopping where you like for as long as you like!

Public land falls into three categories:

  • Department of Conservation (DOC) land
  • Crown (LINZ) and Local Council managed land
  • NZTA NZ Transport Authority land (highway roadsides)

Freedom camping on DOC land is generally allowed, with some exceptions where you cannot camp because the site has a special value, for example, it’s a Māori burial site (urupā) or a protected plant or animal is there. And you cannot camp in a DOC administered “reserve” unless you’re within a managed (paid) campsite or specifically where signs allow it.

When it comes to council land, every district across NZ has different bylaws. For example, some will not let you freedom camp within 1 kilometre of the town, or will only let you stay in a carpark for 1 night. No-one wants to trawl through 68 different council websites to work out where to park so read on for our tips!

In general, you can only freedom camp on public land if your vehicle is certified self-contained. But it pays to educate yourself before travelling as it’s easy to get tripped up and risk a fine. This super useful “Is it freedom camping?” quiz allows you to test your knowledge and fill in any gaps!

To throw another curveball, the definition of self-containment has changed, which leads us nicely on to…

What is a certified self-contained vehicle (SCV)?

The NZ Government definition: A certified self-contained vehicle meets the ablutionary and sanitary needs of the occupants for a minimum of three days, without requiring any external services or discharging waste.

In simpler terms, it must have a toilet, water and waste facilities, and be certified under the New Zealand Self-Containment Standard.

Up until 6 June 2023, vehicles could be certified as self-contained if they had a portable toilet and would be issued a BLUE windscreen card (warrant) and vehicle sticker. However, on 7 June 2023, the law changed requiring any new certifications to have a fixed toilet. “Fixed” doesn’t mean the toilet needs to be in its own cubicle but it does need to be fixed securely to the vehicle and be able to be emptied without (re)moving the whole unit. So, it either has a waste cassette that pulls out or it’s plumbed into a black water tank.

As well as some changes to who can certify self-containment, this marked a major change in the requirements for self-containment and is distinguished by having a GREEN windscreen card (warrant) and vehicle sticker. There is a transition period, so any vehicles that were certified under the old “blue standard” can still continue to freedom camp but only until 7 June 2025 – regardless of the expiry date on the windscreen card itself. However, for rental vehicles, the expiry date for the blue warrant is 7 December 2024.

What does this mean if I’m hiring a Quirky campervan?

When it comes to self-containment, ALL Quirky vans have achieved the blue standard and can be used for freedom camping until 7 December 2024. After that date, there are basically two types of van:

  • Those that do or will be modified to meet the green standard and can continue to be used for freedom camping.
  • Those that remain at the blue standard and can only be used in paid campsites or parking spaces designated for non-self-contained vehicles (NSC) on public land.

If you only want to see Quirky vans that meet the green standard, click the link or go to the “Hire A Campervan” menu item and select “Vans with a Fixed Toilet/Green Warrant” from the drop-down menu.

So, where can I stay in a “blue standard” campervan?

Fortunately, sites restricted to certified self-contained (green standard) vehicles only represent a small percentage of available options in New Zealand. There are thousands of affordable and free options across the country. Here are some awesome resources we, and members of our Quirky camping community, highly recommend for finding the best camping options:

Stop and Stay NZ

This site features heaps of camp sites recommended by campers – some paid, some free. They generally only need “self-containment” (blue standard) as opposed to “certified self-containment” (green standard).

Freedom Camping Advice and Free Camping in NZ

These are great Facebook groups with lots of free and cheap camping spots. Both require you to request to join and answer some basic membership questions to access and post in the group.

NZ Pocket Guide blog

For an in-depth guide on the various types of places where you can camp in a stickerless self-contained campervan, along with the expected costs and facilities, check out this comprehensive blog from NZ Pocket Guide. It covers the many options including:

  • Free Campsites for Non-Self-Contained Vehicles
  • Council-run campsites
  • Department of Conservation campsites
  • Holiday Parks
Vallery parked up opposite Blue Lake Top 10 – a scenic paid campground in Rotorua


Another excellent option is KiwiCamp park-ups! Most Most KiwiCamp sites are paid camping, offering affordable rates and access to facilities. The toilets are usually free to access, while the other facilities – showers, laundry and kitchen – you pay to use with a prepaid Kiwicash Tag (available through our website or at some iSites). You can top it up with an app. The app allows you to book some sites and top up your key. You can read our blog about how KiwiCamp works and create your KiwiCash account here.

You can expect to pay to use kitchens, around $2 for showers, $4 for laundry, and some sites have secured, gated and or powered park sites from $10+.

Camping Apps

And finally, our blog features our favourite camping apps – including Campermate and Rankers Camping – which cover all types of camping and have a filter for “Non Self-Contained” sites.

In summary, there’s nothing to fear from hiring a “blue standard” van from Quirky. We think it’s fair to say that freedom camping has become a little more complicated and with it comes the risk of a fines for getting it wrong. So whether you choose blue or green, do plan ahead, check signs (and bylaws if you have to!). Take this chart with you, get out there and enjoy!

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