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Fatigue and the Freedom Camping Act

When Can I Sleep in My Car?

In recent months, we have seen what happens when Councils enact bylaws that go against Government legislation.

In particular we often hear in media reports of Councils fining fatigued drivers under their Freedom Camping Bylaws which are enacted by Councils under the Freedom Camping Act 2011. So, what does the Freedom Camping Act 2011 (FCA) allow?

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

(a) a tent or other temporary structure;

(b) a caravan;

(c) a car, camper-van, house-truck, or other motor vehicle. Note the mention of ‘cars’ in the Act – this is where every day Kiwi’s get caught out, including the
homeless sleeping in cars. The FCA goes on to state:

5 (2) In this Act, freedom camping does not include the following activities:

(a) temporary and short-term parking of a motor vehicle;

(b) recreational activities commonly known as day-trip excursions;

(c) resting or sleeping at the roadside in a caravan or motor vehicle to avoid driver fatigue. You would note in the ‘C’ above, there is specific exemption from the Freedom Camping definition for people sleeping to avoid “driver fatigue”. So what is fatigue?

Extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness (Cause someone to feel exhausted). “they were fatigued by their journey”. Fatigue is exertion which can creep up on people at any time and be caused by a number of factors.

In the context of the Freedom Camping Act and Road Transport Legislation it is considered “unpreventable” which is why any Council fining fatigued drivers for freedom camping, not camping in a permitted area etc are in error of the law. Clearly the mentioned Legislation allows for fatigued drivers to rest when required. Usually a power nap of 20 minutes is sufficient but ask any professional long distance driver about the time they overslept on a power nap, the majority have. What does fatigue not include;

Fatigue does not include any form of freedom camping as defined above, regardless of the mode of camping. Nor does it include any Fatigue symptoms caused by controllable factors - ie Drinking alcohol to excess.

A public awareness article by Responsible Campers Association Incorporated

This article is not intended to replace sound legal advice.


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