Lonely Planet Writer

New Zealand's Marlborough region may tackle illegal freedom camping with a dedicated ranger

The New Zealand region of Marlborough may soon have a dedicated ranger to combat illegal freedom camping in the area.

A post shared by then we lived (@thenwelived) on Mar 5, 2017 at 3:44pm PST

Freedom camping – the ability to camp somewhere outside a designated campground and without proper facilities – is legal in most public areas of New Zealand but problems with overcrowding and the disposal of human waste have caused some local authorities to clamp down on it in recent years, a move which has proved difficult to enforce.

A post shared by Meagan Donoghue (@meagand66) on Dec 24, 2015 at 7:12pm PST

Marlborough council opted for a month-long trial over the course of January and patrolled problem spots where people stopped illegally near designated campsites, resulting in overcrowding in the area. Nearly 700 vehicles were moved on during the trial, most of them in the busy port town of Picton.

The move has gotten support from local businesses, and the council are due to discuss the possibility of hiring a full-time ranger in the summer months to tackle the issue. If successful, it could provide a blueprint for other regions to enforce their own rules on freedom camping. 

The scenic Marlborough region attracts many freedom campers.
The scenic Marlborough region attracts many freedom campers. Image by Willi Nuechterlein/500px

However, there are still concerns about getting campers to pay the fines they accrue. The Marlborough Express reported that there are currently $6200 in outstanding fines yet to be paid and there were calls from local business owners to begin to enforce the penalties properly. Meanwhile, some spokespeople for freedom camping says that the rules should only be enforced on vehicles that aren’t completely self-contained.

Freedom camping remains a huge draw for travellers looking for a budget experience in New Zealand. If you decide to finally take that freedom camping tour, ensure you follow these guidelines to have a positive experience and help keep freedom camping available for many years to come.

Get the top travel news stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday by signing up to our newsletter.