Just how free is freedom camping?
After four weeks on the road from Cape Reinga to Bluff, the one rule Tasha Black learnt about freedom camping in New Zealand is, well, there is no one rule
Finding a nice spot to park up in a self-contained camper van is a confusing battle. In the East Cape you can freedom camp, but only in summer and only if you have a permit. In the Far North you can’t. In the Clutha District you can. In Kaitaia you can park at the RSA.
‘‘Assume nothing, always ask a local,’’ is the freedom camping motto sung by the tourism industry.
The question is, do locals really know the rules? Even some information centre staff I spoke to had no idea of freedom camping rules and tried to bluff it.
Some said it was not encour- aged, but refused to say if it was illegal. Others suggested I nip down to the beach after dark and park up.
Freedom campers have a dirty name. Not only do they drive on the wrong side of the road, they leave rubbish in parks and poo in front gardens.
Well, actually, that’s just what I’ve heard. I can’t say I saw anything like it.
Horror stories about freedom campers sparked local and central government into hasty action.
Despite decades of freedom camping in New Zealand something had to be done before hordes of tourists came for the Rugby World Cup.
I paid $100 a day for my camper van, and didn’t fancy paying an additional $20 a night per person for holiday park amenities, such as a kitchen, that my camper van already had.
A couple travelling – especially in the peak season when campers can cost more than $200 a day to hire – would be better off renting a car and staying in hotels.
The real grind, however, is being squeezed in between dozens of other vans, next to children’s playgrounds, games rooms, concrete pathways, lamp lights, swimming pools, and the spas many holiday parks now have.
Our needs are simple: flat ground and a nice view. Department of Conservation camp grounds are great, but they are often a long drive away on gravel roads and many camper van companies don’t insure for gravel related accidents.
Freedom campers may sound like a bunch of free-loaders, but according to the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association the rental industry is worth more than $ 500 million to New Zealand’s economy.
That’s a lot of money to be lost if New Zealand, which has already attracted bad press for ripping off Rugby World Cup tourists, doesn’t appreciate those pesky camper vans. I loved my road-trip, but I wouldn’t do it again.
Freedom: Flat ground and a nice view is all that is needed.