Freedom Camping: NZMCA members would not meet strict new containment laws

Last week, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash revealed details of a proposed non self-contained campervan ban by 2022. However, a huge number of New Zealand's motorhomes would fail to meet the strict new standards according to the NZMCA.

Rental companies and regional authorities have come out in favour of a crackdown on problem campers.

The freedom camper became a totemic issue for the tourism industry, with Nash launching a crusade against the campervan in November last year. Since then he has blamed them for everything from "defecating in our waterways" to denting the Pure New Zealand "brand".

Queenstown and Lakes District mayor Jim Boult, welcomed a tougher approach to camper vans, saying "It has been a sore point around New Zealand for a number of years."

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Desperate times call for desperate measures, but some proposals may be pushing the portable loo laws too far.

The NZMCA, New Zealand's biggest motorhome owners association, has urged the minister to pump the brakes before the new laws were finalised.

NZMCA CEO Bruce Lochore welcomed the proposed changes to the future of freedom camping. However, he warned that the stricter interpretation of the new laws could leave one in ten of their members caught short.

Lochore said the past 12 months demonstrated that responsible motorhome holidays are possible.

"With no international visitors on our roads, more New Zealanders than ever before – both in their own and in rental vehicles - have taken to motorhoming," he said. "Yet there have been none of the problems of previous years around inappropriate waste disposal."

The new CSC (Certified Self-Containment) laws would be "the centrepiece in the future of freedom camping", said Lochore but some of the proposals need revising.

Freedom Camping: NZMCA members would not meet strict new containment laws

He said NZMCA would push back on the proposal for CSCs to only be granted to vehicles with 'plumbed toilets'.

"At present some 5,500 of our members' vehicles (that's about 10 per cent of our membership) have met the strict requirements of the CSC Standard and we certainly believe such vehicles should be allowed for."

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NZMCA found chemical toilets to be perfectly adequate, but thanked minister Nash for the "urgency injected into the discussion."

Lochore told the Herald NZMCA already enforced strict containment standards for members and would be proposing its own suggestions to minister Nash, to make sure motorhome owners were not caught out.

What do you need for a CSC?

Currently vehicles can be certified as "self contained" if they meet the "ablutionary and sanitary needs of the occupants for a minimum of three days" without discharging waste.The certificate covers waste water, rubbish and fresh water.

A variety of toilet types are accepted - chemical, water or even compost – however they must be securely stored while travelling and usable whenever stationary. This must account for "sufficient head and elbow room" while the bed is made. i.e. you can't get away with just tucking away a cassette toilet in a corner.

Toilets need to be "sufficient" for the occupants' waste for three days. This must be a minimum of 3 litres - or 1 litre of waste per person, per day.

CSC inspection costs upwards of $30 and a certificate lasts for the duration of 48 months.

What is changing and when?

The government is set on making freedom camping more sustainable by 2022. MBIE is taking public consensus on four proposals designed to clean up the CSC.

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The first proposal is either ban non self-contained vehicles from freedom camping – or make staying at campsites with toilet facilities mandatory for non self-contained vehicles.Secondly are proposals on new fines and regulatory tools for governments. This includes increasing maximum penalties from $200 to $1000.

The final and most contentious proposal is to ban all vehicles but those with permanently-plumbed toilers from freedom camping.

These desperate measures could see thosands of motorhomes fall short of new freedom camping laws, when they are introduced as early as 2022.

MBIE has asked for public feedback on the new freedom camping proposals by Sunday 16 May. See MBIE's Have Your Say website for details or to submit comment