What is freedom camping?

    The Freedom Camping Act 2011 defines freedom camping as:

    To camp (other than at a camping ground) within 200 m of a motor vehicle accessible area or the mean low-water springs line of any sea or harbour, or on or within 200 m of a formed road or a Great Walks Track, using one or more of the following:

    • a tent or other temporary structure:
    • a caravan:
    • a car, campervan, housetruck, or other motor vehicle.

    The Act excludes the following activities from its definition of freedom camping:

    • temporary and short-term parking of a motor vehicle:
    • recreational activities commonly known as day-trip excursions:
    • resting or sleeping at the roadside in a caravan or motor vehicle to avoid driver fatigue.

    For the purposes of this Bylaw, freedom camping is when someone stays overnight on council-controlled land, including roads, in a vehicle or caravan.  This includes any land managed by Auckland Transport, which means most roads and some carparks.

    This Bylaw only covers freedom camping in vehicles because erecting any structure (including a tent) on public land is already prohibited in Auckland under the Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2018.

    Will this Bylaw penalise people who are staying in a vehicle because they are homeless?

    For the purposes of this Bylaw, we consider freedom camping to mean people staying in vehicles overnight as part of leisure travel or because they are choosing to live in a vehicle voluntarily for lifestyle reasons. 

    The central government did not intend the Freedom Camping Act 2011 to manage homelessness, and the council doesn’t intend to use it for that purpose. 

    The adoption of new freedom camping rules may create additional stress for Aucklanders experiencing homelessness, who may feel stigmatised or fear enforcement action if the proposed Bylaw is adopted. 

    However, the council has committed to taking a humane enforcement approach to protect vulnerable members of the Auckland community. This will include connecting people to social services support where appropriate.

    When someone is living in a vehicle due to homelessness, our compliance staff will only intervene if they are causing an obstruction or a nuisance. These impacts on public health and safety are managed under other bylaws, not freedom camping regulation.

    What does the Freedom Camping Act 2011 allow council to do in a freedom camping bylaw?

    The Freedom Camping Act 2011 recognises that some areas may not be suitable for any freedom camping. It also enables council to set restrictions that will help to prevent harm and balance competing uses in other areas. 

    This means our Bylaw can identify areas where all freedom camping is prohibited, and areas where restrictions are needed to manage how and where freedom camping can occur, as long as these meet the Act’s criteria. 

    The Act states we can only prohibit or restrict freedom camping in an area if this is necessary to:

    • protect the area (for example because it is environmentally or culturally sensitive)
    • protect the health and safety of people who may use the area
    • protect access to the area.

    The Act also requires the council: 

    • not ban (or effectively ban) freedom camping on all the land we manage through our bylaw 
    • be satisfied that any prohibitions or restrictions are the most appropriate and proportionate response to freedom camping demand in the area, and the problems it would cause if allowed
    • to have considered other ways to manage the problem, other than through a bylaw 
    • make a bylaw that is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990
    • map or clearly describe each area covered by prohibitions or restrictions, so freedom campers have certainty about what rules apply.

    Why can’t we just keep the current bylaw?

    Auckland’s existing freedom camping bylaw prohibits freedom camping on all council-controlled land except for 11 areas. This bylaw contains provisions that were made before the Freedom Camping Act 2011 was passed. 

    The current Bylaw will reach its statutory expiry date in 2022 and it cannot be extended. If it is not replaced before it expires, there will be no regulation of freedom camping in Auckland until a bylaw is adopted to replace it. The new bylaw must comply with the Freedom Camping Act 2011. 

    The Freedom Camping Act 2011 is permissive by default, which means its starting point is to allow freedom camping on all public land, including the land managed by councils. Aligning with the national policy will therefore require a significant shift in how we manage freedom camping in Auckland.

    Didn’t council already consult on this bylaw in 2018-19? How is this proposal different?

    We asked for your feedback on an earlier version of this Bylaw, in 2018-19. After considering your feedback, the council decided to develop a new Bylaw proposal. 

    There are four main differences between the earlier proposal, and this one:

    • we’ve included general rules in the Bylaw, which would apply everywhere where camping isn’t already prohibited or restricted (including most roadsides in Auckland)
    • this Bylaw won’t cover reserves – camping on reserves will continue to be managed under the Reserves Act 1977, which in most cases means people won’t be able to camp in these areas 
    • we’ve removed all the reserves that were identified in the earlier proposal, meaning there are fewer designated prohibited or restricted areas in this proposal 
    • the general rules we’ve proposed, and the decision to remove reserves, would mean that everyone who freedom camps in Auckland will need to use a certified self-contained vehicle in future.

    We are still committed not to use this bylaw to manage issues associated with homelessness – our enforcement staff will take a compassionate approach to protect vulnerable Aucklanders

    How did you identify the prohibited and restricted areas in the Bylaw schedules?

    We completed assessments of over 1,000 council-managed carparks and some roads in Auckland to understand which areas met the criteria for protection under the Freedom Camping Act 2011. 

    Carparks without existing access restrictions were the focus for our assessment. This is because they are areas of public land accessible by vehicle, and where lower demand means there is no fee to park. 

    As Auckland has more than 7,000 kilometres of public road, roads were only assessed for prohibition or restrictions if they were already known to be popular with freedom campers. 

    We considered two key aspects in assessing whether an area needed to be designated in the Bylaw schedules: 

    • Desirability (whether campers are likely to want to stay there). We looked for evidence of past use by freedom campers, as well as at the amenity of the area and how close it was to attractive locations such as the coast, motorway access or the airport.
    • Sensitivity (whether the area had characteristics that made it unsuitable for camping). We considered an area’s environmental and cultural sensitivity, and whether freedom camping there could cause health and safety risks, damage infrastructure or impact public access to the area.

    Areas have only been designated in the Bylaw if our assessment found a high or medium level of protection is required, based on their combined desirability and sensitivity.

    Based on our assessments, we identified 67 specific areas which justify protection under a Freedom Camping Act bylaw, and which are not already protected under another enactment (such as the Reserves Act 1977).

     

    What happens if problems emerge in other areas?

    New prohibited or restricted areas can be added to the Bylaw schedules if demand from freedom campers causes problems in other areas in future.

    However, before including additional areas in the Bylaw, the council will need evidence to justify their need for protection under the Freedom Camping Act 2011.

    If you believe that freedom camping is causing problems in a particular area which is not listed in the Schedules, you can tell us about it in your feedback, or in future by contacting the council call centre.

    This information will help us monitor freedom camping activity and complaints across Auckland following the implementation of the Bylaw, to see if problems consistently emerge in any unscheduled areas which can’t be satisfactorily dealt with by our enforcement staff. 

    What land isn’t covered by the proposed Bylaw?

    The proposed Bylaw will only cover land held under the Local Government Act 2002. This includes any land managed by Auckland Transport, which means most roads and some carparks.

    The Bylaw will not manage land in Auckland that is:

    • held under the Reserves Act 1977 (see the question and answer specifically discussing reserves, below)
    • part of a regional park, as this is already managed through the Regional Parks Management Plan
    • leased by the council to another organisation
    • managed by the Tupuna Maunga Authority
    • Crown land, or managed by the Department of Conservation 
    • in private ownership.

    Why have reserves been excluded from the scope of the proposed Bylaw?

    Although the Freedom Camping Act 2011 allows freedom camping by default on public land, this does not apply if an area is already protected under another enactment.

    Camping of any kind is prohibited by default on land held under the Reserves Act 1977 unless the council decides to allow it – either with delegated authority from the Minister of Conservation, or through the adoption of a reserve management plan under the Reserves Act 1977. 

    After considering feedback on the 2018-19 Bylaw proposal, council decided Auckland’s reserve land will not be covered by the freedom camping bylaw. We will continue to manage the environmental and recreational values of reserves under the Reserves Act 1977. 

    This means camping will remain prohibited at all reserves, except where it has been specifically considered and approved under the Reserves Act 1977. 

    Following a change to the Reserves Act 1977 in 2019, the council can now issue $800 infringement fines for unauthorised camping at reserves. This was not possible when a draft bylaw was last proposed, in 2018.

     

    Is there a list of parks held under the Reserves Act 1977?

    There are over 4,000 parks and reserves in Auckland which have been established and added to over many decades. The legal classification of our public open space is complex, with many of our parks made up of multiple land parcels acquired over time and held under different Acts. 

    Council has a dedicated programme of work to ensure all of our parkland is classified accurately. This is a long-term programme that is informing the development of Local Parks Management Plans for each local board are in Auckland. However complete classification data for all Auckland parks will not be available before this Bylaw is adopted. 

    The land status can vary between land parcels within a park, between parks and between different areas of Auckland. However, land classification work to date has found that a significant majority of our parkland is held under the Reserves Act 1977. This means freedom camping will continue to be prohibited on most parks under that Act. 

    Most of our reserves already display ‘no camping’ signs, and if necessary, signs can be installed at other reserves to address unauthorised freedom camping occurring there. 

    The parks already identified for prohibition or restriction in the Bylaw schedules are those which are not held under the Reserves Act 1977, and where we have sufficient evidence to justify scheduling them in the Bylaw.

    If you believe that freedom camping is causing problems in a particular park which is not listed in the Schedules, you can tell us about it in your feedback, or in future by contacting the council call centre.

    This information will help us monitor freedom camping activity and complaints across Auckland following the implementation of the Bylaw, to see if problems consistently emerge in any unscheduled areas which can’t be satisfactorily dealt with by our enforcement staff. 

     

    Why doesn’t the proposed Bylaw manage problems associated with irresponsible freedom camping, such as littering and anti-social behaviour?

    Our research has found that many freedom campers visiting Auckland do camp responsibly, and that locals and day-trippers may also behave irresponsibly in areas used by freedom campers. 

    A freedom camping bylaw can contain rules that help to prevent irresponsible camping, but there are also other laws and bylaws that also manage these types of behaviour, and which apply to everyone.  

    The Bylaw will not duplicate rules that are already set out in other laws or bylaws, such as: 

    • the Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2013:
      1. prohibits people from erecting structures (including tents) in public places 
      2. prohibits staying in vehicles overnight on regional parks
      3. prohibits parking vehicles of any kind on parks or beaches without permission
      4. manages a wide range of antisocial behaviour
    • the Auckland Council Traffic Bylaw 2015 and Auckland Transport Traffic Bylaw 2012 requires all vehicles to abide by parking restrictions as indicated by signage
    • the Litter Act 1979 controls littering
    • the Resource Management Act 1991 controls dumping of waste into the environment and other activities which may be managed through planning documents (such as the Unitary Plan)
    • the Fire and Emergency NZ Act 2017 controls the lighting of fires
    • alcohol bans made under the Alcohol Control Bylaw 2014 ban alcohol in some public places
    • the Dog Management Bylaw 2019 regulates where dogs are allowed.

    If it’s adopted, when will the new Bylaw come into force? What happens until then?

    If adopted, the new Bylaw will come into force on 1 September 2022.

    The existing Bylaw will apply throughout Auckland until then and can be viewed on the council’s website, here.

    Is the government going to make changes to the Freedom Camping Act 2011? Will that affect Auckland Council’s Bylaw?

    In April 2021, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) released a national discussion document for public consultation on possible changes to the Freedom Camping Act 2011. 

    You can review the discussion document and check for updates on the outcome of that consultation on the MBIE website, here.

    Auckland Council took the time to fully review the discussion document during the period of public consultation, before making a formal submission in May.

    Any confirmed changes to the national freedom camping legislation will need to be reflected in our Bylaw. Council will look at what changes (if any) will be needed to our Bylaw proposal or to the adopted Bylaw, once MBIE has released further details.

    What is the New Zealand Self-Containment Standard?

    We are proposing that all vehicles used for freedom camping in Auckland will need to be certified self-contained, which means they have been assessed as complying with the New Zealand Self-Containment Standard (NZS 5465:2001, or its equivalent).

     This standard specifies the requirements for water supply, sanitary plumbing and drainage installation and solid waste containment in motor caravans and caravans for the purpose of obtaining a self-containment certificate. You can find out more about the Standard here.