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What is a Responsible Freedom Camper?

As we again head on into summer and the popular season for Freedom Camping, many are asking just what is a responsible freedom camper?

Certainly not a lot has changed since last year. We have the usual NIMBY’s complaining about freedom camping, that’s the activity not necessarily the actual camper, while a small minority do have real confirmed complaints about the people camping. These are a minority but get given much air time by media.

While some long established organizations are happy to stay with what they claim is time proven solutions, others organizations have popped up to prove that these so called time proven solutions are not solutions at all, and in some cases are actually part of the ongoing problems.

Take for example the 2017 amendments to the NZ Standard for self containment of Motor Caravans and Caravans, which requires that a toilet is usable within a camper-van even with the bed made up. On the surface this sounds like a good move, after all you hardly want someone sitting on their camp toilet in full public view. But when investigated, we discover that once the ability to use the toilet within the Camper-van is met that a Toilet tent may be used outside the camper-van, once camping. The NZ Standard making that requirement is only applicable once camping, so just what has that amendment achieved? All that is achieved is more campers throwing the toilet out and driving Freedom camping even futher underground.

Other organizations have surveyed Councils and other stakeholders, to investigate what works for them and what doesn’t while also talking to freedom Campers to discover the same issues. Much has been said about non-copy write blue stickers which pop up on the rear of some campers being printed by individuals to suggest they are certified as self contained when they aren’t. Even the genuine sticker’s have a life span of many many years with some over 10 years old still looking new. They don’t change in appearance and last well beyond the 4 years of the self containment certification.

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So does this self containment certification actually make campers responsible?
In short no it doesn’t. It provides no education - not even on how to empty the mandatory waste tank or toilet, never mind anything about the expectations or responsibilities of the Freedom Camper.

What was discovered by surveying Councils and other stakeholders was that an education program was definitely needed. For some reason prior to early 2018 education appears to have been an unknown in Freedom Camping. Their was a number of largely Government websites but these contained information that was inaccurate and misleading. In early 2018 a report was released which highlighted the need for education.
It was suggested at this time that along side education Councils would require some sort of evidence that Campers were responsible particularly if the self Containment Standard was to be removed as an restriction. Some were aware at this time that the self containment standard was not compliant with Bill of Rights and therefore had not implemented it into their bylaws.
Responsible Campers Association Incorporated, alongside other stakeholders, then developed the Responsible Campers Accreditation program which educates and quiz’s campers in the expectations and responsibilities of being a responsible freedom Camper. On successful completion of the quiz an Accredited Camper card can then be issued.

It has to be proven that the only true responsible campers in New Zealand are holders of this Accreditation card, if only because they have been educated and proven that they understand that education. Several hundred persons now hold Accreditation while other organizations continue to push programs that have been around over 25 years and are yet to produce the desired result.

Tasman District Council recently said “The Responsible Campers Association Incorporated has been created to develop, promote and support a Responsible Campers Accreditation Program which provides education and competency cards to campers who can successfully answer questions on responsible camping.
This self-containment accreditation system focuses on the education and competency of the camper, rather than a standard that applies to facilities on a vehicle”

While Department of Conservation said “can clearly see the amount of effect and research that has gone into producing the website and the level of detail is impressive”.

This sort of education program and accreditation is the only way to go forward successfully. Freedom Camping is a right and any restrictions on that right have to meet the requirements of Bill of Rights which such programs can do. Only by implementing programs placing the onus on the campers will we go anywhere towards keeping everyone happy.

Thanking you
Responsible Campers Association Incorporated.

© Scoop Media

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