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About RCAi

Responsible Campers Association Inc (RCAi) have been active in the Responsible Freedom Camping arena since January 2017.

We have surveyed Territorial Authorities and asked for feedback on Responsible Freedom Camping. Rather than just sit on this information we sought solutions to the many problems that were identified and to that end engaged with many Councils, Stakeholders, supporters of RCAi, and others in order to seek simple practical solutions.

Onus on the mode of camping

It has long been considered by many responsible campers that placing the onus on the mode of camping rather than the people, is misplaced as you cannot educate the mode of camping.

Placing the onus on the mode of camping is only ever going to be as effective as the education and knowledge of the people camping. Without even basic education, focus on facilities is failing to address concerns.


RCAi at all times promotes the use of facilities that are “fit for purpose”. The use of overflowing rubbish bins or blocked dump stations is not RCAI’s view of responsible freedom camping.

The Freedom Camping Act allows for justified restrictions to be imposed by councils, and other mangers of public land, where determined to be necessary i.e:

1/ Protect the area

2/ Protect access to the area

3/ Protect health & safety of those visiting the area

These requirements are echoed from the Bill of Acts Act, as it relates to the right of the public to remain on public land. Our program addresses these issues therefore making it a compliant restriction on freedom camping as a long held 'right'.

RCAi believes all freedom campers should and can be self-contained. It is not just, in a democratic society, to be expecting every camper to have identical requirements or that every camper has the same needs. ​

Traditionally camping by Kiwis has been done using tents etc

This needs to be preserved so all Kiwis, regardless of budget, can enjoy our great outdoors responsibly, even if just spending a night at a local beach. Kiwis traditionally are known for throwing a mattress in the back of the van or on the back of a ute, to accommodate a night or 2 away.

RCAi believes all campers do therefore have the right to use all publicly available camping sites in a responsible manner and there should be NO discrimination based on the mode of camping.

It has been proved and admitted, that when emphasis is placed on the mode of camping, not the people, it leads to significant discrimination, harassment and bullying towards responsible campers who do not fit into a preconceived image of a responsible camper.

Restrictions based on the mode of camping can also impact other outdoor recreational users who camp as a sideline to other activities I.e. Cycle tourists, Trampers, Water users (camping on shore by night) etc. These outdoor people likely outnumber those using RV’s at a rate of 5-1. There is often overzealous enforcement activity because a person may use a small RV as daily transport or as part of other outdoor activities I.e. fishing, at night, there are also ongoing concern for people with medical issue. Often an enforcement officer is less concerned with actually understanding why a person is there, but more interested in enforcing the various camping bylaws even if said person is not actually camping.


Until summer of 2018, there was very little education and our March 2018 released report, exposed the need for education as the greatest and most urgent need to address concerns around Freedom Camping.


RCAi has developed and launched an education program to accredit campers in being responsible. Click on the link provided on the home page to access the program.

Locals Camping

There has been much discussion about the ability of locals to spend a night at the local beach, surfers waiting for early morning surf breaks, fisher person’s waiting for tide changes / snoozing in their cars, and many others, like divers who may go in 4x4’s to isolated coast areas and spend a night prior to diving the next morning.

It is impractical and unjustified, to expect these people to meet the requirements to be self-sufficient for a period of 3 days when it is only for 1 night, our Accreditation program solves this by taking the emphasis of the mode of camping and placing it on the people doing the camping, as well as informing them what they need to manage their waste in a responsible manner.

Another issue identified is where people who own pets may travel some distance to see family etc., who have vans to sleep in which do not need self-containment as they do not cook in their vans, using them solely as a place to sleep. These people often sleep in the vans due to inability to take pets to a motels or other accommodation. Often these people will sleep near public toilets or carry a portable camp toilet or other viable alternative.

There are many people with a medical condition that requires them to lay down and rest during a Journey, these people can also be seen to be in breach of council freedom camping bylaws, especially if they elect to travel at night when there are less likely to be disruptions to traffic.

Bill of Rights

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act gives Kiwis a right to remain on public land. Reasons for restricting that are provided for in section 11 of the Freedom Camping Act which taken directly from the Bill of Rights Act. Failure to comply with one means failure to comply with the other. There are no grounds for protecting neighbouring business or addressing complaints from NIMBYs. (Not in My Back Yard)

It is the opinion of RCAi, that campers who identify as being voluntarily self-contained are more responsible than campers who are ‘self-contained’ to meet the requirements of the club to which they belong. These people are voluntarily self-contained solely to protect our environment, and to the needs of themselves as responsible campers.

We generally have a problem where rules and regulations are constantly being implemented for the sole purpose of controlling what is in essence a very small number of irresponsible campers, while undemocratically punishing others! Often these rules and regulations are focused on the facilities or mode of camping rather than the people being irresponsible.

Problems and solutions

As previously stated, RCAi approached local councils to identify issues with freedom camping in their areas. Many of the problems below were raised by them.

RCAi's accreditation program attempts to address these problems while always open to suggestions for improvement. Below the accreditation program is compared to the current certified self-contained (CSC) scheme.


RCA, by the people doing the camping with respect to both their mode of camping and their own personal requirements.


CSC, based on the mode of camping, but is only relative to motorhomes and caravans as the only modes able to be “certified” as self-contained.


RCA, By window cards and complimentary stickers valid for 24 months only. Changes in appearance being catered for yearly to give an immediate visual confirmation as to validity. By design stickers and window cards, have a short life span. Additionally, we provide ‘toilet equipped’ plastic card as notification that a camper has a toilet to use. All cards &stickers are compatible with all modes of camping.


CSC, by window card and optional sticker valid for 4 years and does not change visually. No requirement to ever remove sticker which has a long-life span.


RCAi, All Accreditation cards and supporting stickers issued by Responsible Campers Association, are copyright to Responsible Campers Association Inc therefore allowing legal action against people copying them.

CSC, No supporting evidence that material is copyright, allowing anybody to reproduce, sell and otherwise distribute as they wish with no legal recourse.


RCAi, promoted in an unbiased manner by an organization representing all campers as defined by the Freedom Camping Act;2011 (FCA).


CSC, promoted by caravan and motorhome clubs to comply with Resource Consent conditions and Camp-Ground regulation exemptions, at their own properties. It has zero legal standing and is not suitable for use outside those gates.

Regulatory Authority

RCAi, Became an Incorporated Society to develop, promote, support and be the authority of the RCAi program now and well into the future. It's written in our Constitution! RCAi is run by a governing committee at this time.

CSC, None


RCAi, Valid for 2 years and allowing for easy visual confirmation of compliance with yearly border colour changes.

CSC, Valid for 4 years with no visual changes allowed for at any time, therefore failing to provide a quick visual confirmation as to validity.


RCAi, an education program covering Freedom Camping expectations within New Zealand

CSC, Nil


RCA, After the education program there is a questionnaire to be answered. Passing this test provides for a accreditation card to be issued to that person upon payment of a fee.

CSC, none on persons camping - only mode of camping.


RCAi, Issue of a responsible camper accreditation card, and bumper sticker. Issued to a person.

CSC, Issue of window card and sticker for an individual vehicle


RCA, the ability to prevent offenders from gaining an accreditation card for a period of up to 5 years depending on the seriousness of the offending.


CSC, Largely unknown. No evidence that anyone has been convicted or otherwise penalised for breaches of NZS;5465 standard.



RCAi, the persons camping are to assess their own requirements, taking into consideration their mode of camping and their own personal needs. Education of this is included in the accreditation program.


CSC, governed by a NZS;5465 which has no assessment of the persons camping but only the mode of camping and only covers motorhomes & caravans. Has no consideration of personal requirements.


RCAi, $25 biannually. Covering up to 5 people using the same camping unit.

CSC runs into thousands of dollars to meet NZS;5465:2001, including equipment that may never be used or is required to meet personal requirements.


RCAi, A non-profit group with all funds being used to promote and fund the scheme. Tax exempt status has been granted by IRD.

CSC, can be used as a money-making exercise for clubs, businesses etc.


RCAi, A scheme for ALL campers as defined by the Freedom Camping Act. A program that puts the onus on people and providing education and an assessment of knowledge.

CSC, A certificate based on the mode of camping with no education can only be of very minimal advantage. It remains voluntary and legally unenforceable.

The RCAi accreditation program meets the requirements of section 11(2) a, b & c, of the Freedom Camping Act as it addresses the specific reasons allowed for restrictions and/or prohibition, i- is compliant with Bill of Rights Act making it the most appropriate and proportionate way of addressing any 'perceived' problems.. Other programs, that place the onus on the mode of camping, do NOT achieve the results required…. The objectives of the self-containment standard do not address any of the required reasons for restricting or prohibiting freedom camping and what little attempt it makes to do so is directly only at a minority group of Freedom Campers.

We do hope you take our Accreditation Program and pass with flying colours. We also are very keen to receive any feedback on the program and ways it could be improved.

Thank You 

Responsible Campers Association Incorporated

At all times this publication remains the property and copyright of Responsible Campers Association Inc. It may be reproduced in full or in part but credit must at all times be acknowledged to Responsible Campers Association Incorporated. ©

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