About RCAi

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


We 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 spoke to many Councils, Stakeholders, members of RCAi, and others in order to seek simple solutions.


Any person can hold themselves out to be an issuing authority under NZS;5465(Self Containment certification for Motor caravans). In recent years we have seen a large increase in persons, businesses and organizations holding themselves out as Issuing Authorities. There is no overseeing governing body. The effect of this is a system which has now become a total shambles.

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 doing the camping is misplaced as you cannot fine the mode of camping, neither can you educate it into Responsible Camping principals.


Because someone uses a self-contained camper that meets the requirements of NZS;5465, that in itself does not make them a responsible freedom camper.

Indeed there are many known instances where certified self contained campers have been observed throwing grey water out the door of their camper, using (or at least trying to use) facilities that are not “fit for purpose” e.g. rubbish bins that are over flowing, dump stations that are blocked or otherwise malfunctioning, as well as generally just dumping rubbish . This is NOT responsible freedom camping.

RCAi at all times promotes the use of facilities that are “fit for purpose”.

RCAi has discovered in just one organisation’s travel directory, over 170 camping sites which are restricted to campers meeting the requirements of NZ;5465 but have facilities suitable for non-self-contained campers, (e.g. ones with no on-board facilities at all).  Most of these sites were identified as being in the Auckland area.  The Freedom Camping Act allows for justified restrictions to be imposed by councils etc. where determined to be necessary, it can hardly be the case when suitable facilities are available for non-certified self-contained campers.

While RCAi believes all responsible freedom campers should and can be self-contained, it is not just in a democratic society to be limiting these sites to campers meeting the requirements of NZS;5465 only.

RCAi believes that facilities at camp sites for campers compliant with NZS;5465 should be limited to rubbish bins or nothing at all. 

While all campers as defined by the Freedom Camping Act 2011 can and should be self-contained, only motorhomes & caravans can be certified as such.

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. 


RCAi believes all campers should therefore be given the right to use all freedom camping sites in a responsible manner and there should be NO discrimination based on the mode of camping.  It could be argued that a local or regional authority, Government department and other entities using NZS;5465 and the allowances in the Freedom Camping Act to ban or restrict Responsible Freedom Camping currently causes significant discrimination towards responsible New Zealand residents and international visitors camping in these areas.


These restrictions can also impact other recreational users including people who spend nights photographing the stars, who often appear to be camping but are not; the often overzealous enforcement activity is less concerned with actually understanding why a person is there, for reasons other than camping and is more interested in enforcing the various camping bylaws even if said person is not breaching any bylaws.



As has recently been acknowledged there is no education with NZS;5465. Anyone can get a certificate of compliance but receives no education as part of that certification on how to be a responsible freedom camper.


Education is the greatest need, not certification of the “mode” of camping.


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

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 of NZS;5465 and be self-sufficient for a period of 3 days when its only for 1 night.  Our Accreditation programme solves this by taking the emphasis of the mode of camping and placing it on the people doing the camping. 


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 even family in rented houses are prohibited from having pets (especially dogs) to stay, these people also need to be considered.


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 travel - how the NZS;5465 impacts that has been largely untested but recent Local Council and Government communications have raised it as a significant issue with no real legal judgment available. 


It is the opinion of RCAi that campers who identify as self contained but are not certified as such be far more responsible than campers who get certified simply to meet a club rule or to stay in a certain area.

These people are self-contained solely to protect our environment, even if that self-containment is not to the requirements of NZS;5465 but 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!

Problems and solutions


As previously mentioned 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 programme attempts to address these problems with solutions as follows, where the accreditation programme 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 (later) stickers valid for 24 months only.  Changes in appearance being catered for yearly to give an immediate visual confirmation as to validity.  Stickers required to be removed once expired, by design stickers have a short life span.

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.



RCA, All Accreditation cards and supporting stickers issued by Responsible Campers Association, are copyright to Responsible Campers Association 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.



RCA, Promoted in an unbiased manner by an organisation representing all campers as defined by the Freedom Camping Act;2011(FCA).

CSC, Promoted by caravan and motorhome type camping clubs for the major benefit of their own members.  Such clubs combined still only represent a minority of campers as defined by the FCA.  Such clubs lobby in a manner that is more favourable towards Motorhome & Caravan owners.


Regulatory Authority

RCA, Has now become an Incorporated Society to develop, promote, support and be the authority of the RCA programme now and well into the future. It's written in our Constitution!

CSC, None



RCA, 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.



RCA, An education programme covering Freedom Camping expectations within New Zealand

CSC, Nil



RCA, After the education programme there is a questionnaire to be answered.  Passing this test provides for a accreditation card to be issued to that person.

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



RCA, Issue of a responsible camper accreditation card, with later plans to include a 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.



RCA, 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 programme.

CSC, Governed by a NZS;5465 which has no assessment of the persons camping but only the mode of camping (only covers motorhomes & caravans), nor of personal requirements.



RCA, $20 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. 



RCA, A non-profit group with all funds being used to promote and fund the scheme. Tax exempt status has been applied for through IRD.

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



RCA, A scheme for ALL campers as defined by the Freedom Camping Act.  A programme 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.  HOWEVER, it is a widely known scheme even if its benefits are of doubtful benefit.  It is known some councils use CSC because nothing else has been available, UNTIL NOW!

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


Thank You 

Responsible Campers Association Incorporated

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