Free DOC campsites
DOC has basic campsites where you can stay for free. Usually you do not have to be self-contained to stay at DOC campsites because there are facilities available. Check the individual campsite for more information.
Definition of freedom camping
In general, freedom camping is to camp overnight in a public area other than at a managed campsite. See the full definition as it applies in the Freedom Camping Act 2011.
If you plan to freedom camp on public conservation land, you need to know where you can do this, and follow these rules.
Freedom camping is allowed on public conservation land – with exceptions
Where you can't camp
You cannot freedom camp in areas where camping is prohibited (not allowed).
You cannot camp in DOC administered scenic reserves or recreation reserves, unless you're within a managed campsite. This is in accordance to section 44 (1) of the Reserves Act. However, some reserves that allow freedom camping in self-contained vehicles only. Not all reserves will have a sign stating camping is prohibited.
Where you may camp
You may camp on public conservation land (except at DOC reserves) if:
- it's outside the range defined in the Freedom Camping Act 2011,
- and it's not listed as a prohibited (no camping) site.
At DOC reserves you may only camp at managed campsites, or freedom camp in a self-contained vehicle where signs say you can do so.
- Take notice of the signs.
- Always be responsible with your waste.
- Carry in, carry out. Leave no trace.
Take notice of camping restriction signs
No camping sign
Camping overnight is prohibited at sites displaying no camping signs, including this sign:
Self contained vehicles only sign
The following sign means you can only camp overnight in a vehicle that meets the NZS Self containment of motor caravans and caravans standard.
Having a self containment certificate shows your vehicle meets this national standard. A plumber or gasfitter can usually inspect your vehicle, and give you a certificate if it passes.
It's important to be self contained to protect the environment, and keep these areas available for freedom camping.
Why some areas prohibit camping
Prohibited areas are normally near roads where:
- there has been a history of problems caused by inappropriate freedom camping, or
- there is a conservation management reason that warrants restricting camping, eg ensuring equitable access to a site or where sensitive native species are present.
Camping in a prohibited or restricted area can result in a $200 infringement fee.