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Is Self Containment Certification of Motor-homes a scam?

We all have heard the stories, fake blue stickers, questions how some Camper-vans can be certified self contained and more.
But the big question is, what is this certification and what are its objectives?

Freedom Camping News investigates;

The self containment standard that requires Camper-Vans to have specified facilities has been around now in one form or another for over 25 years. In 2001 it became a NZ standard (NZS;5465) but remains ‘non- cited’, so is only voluntary. This does not stop Councils using it as a restriction to Freedom Camping.

While NZS;5465 (the standard) appears to be a good idea, it fails to make campers responsible, as it’s focus is on facilities within the camper vehicle, but fails to provide any education.
The standard’s certification is only available for a minority of campers, (Motorhomes & Caravans) as defined by the Freedom Camping Act 2011(The Act). The Act defines the meaning of Freedom Camp as anyone camping in a Tent or other temporary structure, Caravan, Car, House-truck or other Motor-vehicle. Hardly surprising the main promoters of Self Containment Certification is a large Motor-home club, while others find it difficult to gain a voice.
Camping as defined by the Act, needs to happen within 200 metres of a motor vehicle accessible area, while the NZStandard does mention ‘formed roads’, it is NOT a compulsory element. There is some exceptions, but these relate to day tripping and driver fatigue. Therefore camping includes Hunting areas, where Hunters take Motor vehicles to a area where they set up camp for a week end (as many do), as well as River Rafter’s, and others engaging in multi-day water sports who camp on river banks,along with cycle tourists ( Government is spending Millions of dollars providing National Cycle-ways, with no facilities, and due to Council Bylaws, little ability to camp roadside in rural areas). All it needs to be is accessible by a Motorbike, but most of these people are unable to be certified self contained.

One could be forgiven for thinking Freedom Camping, as determined by Local Councils and Government, is all about Motor-homes & Caravans, that is an incorrect perception, that has been promoted by Motor-home type clubs for a number of years . Motor-homes & Caravans are a minority of Campers as defined by the Act. In denying other groups are covered by the Freedom Camping Act, they deny those groups the ability to lobby against legislation that prevents them from fully enjoying their chosen past-times, whether that is camping, or an activity that has chooses to camp as a sideline.
Motorhome clubs have been responsible for drafting bylaws, for Councils to use, that limit freedom camping to those in Certified Self Contained campers only.Those draft bylaws were then promoted to Local Councils through Local Government NZ with little regard to any other campers.
The Freedom Camping Act 2011 makes no mention of the self containment standard so it use by Councils is very contemptuous with some Councils and other stakeholder contending that it breaches the Bill of Rights Act.
While the facilities required by the NZStandard appear to be good, they are required for a minimum period of 3 days, so locals and others, ( ie; wanting a single night down the local beach) are required to meet the requirements for 3 days, ie surfers sleeping in their cars while waiting for early morning surf breaks. In that respect and others, the Self Containment Standard fails to be inclusive of everyone as defined by the Act.

But do the facilities required by the NZStandard make a camper responsible?
In short No, there is no education, so any camper still needs to make a personal decision to be responsible - it does not make any difference whether they are in a Certified Self Contained Camper or not.
As one organization recently stated “Certified Self Containment can assist a camper to be responsible, but does not make them responsible. To be a responsible camper requires education and a basic knowledge of how to retain waste until it can be disposed of in facilities that are fit for purpose”.

We also have a private organization which is funding and promoting amendments to the NZStandard, that fail to meet the amendments objectives. The reasoning for these amendments appear to be more self serving for the organization concerned, rather than being driven by any real problems or to make campers responsible. That same organization is currently subject to a complaint to the Commerce Commission over misleading claims concerning its authority, and which has misled hundreds of people into joining their organization, at a cost of over $200 each.

It has been promoted as being robust and the answer to Councils concerns, while reality is, it fails in providing any real evidence based solutions. One Council is known to have signage stating that they will only accept certification issued by a certain club, while many businesses have a better track record of compliance with the requirements of the standard.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) who represent the commercial interest’s of Holiday Park owners support the Self Containment Certification and have done so for a number of years.
Freedom Camping News believes that TIA, like many Councils and other stakeholders, have been mislead into exactly what campers are defined by the Freedom Camping Act.
Unsurprisingly these clubs that promote that only campers in Certified self contained vehicles are responsible enough to be allowed to Freedom Camp while making a income from the certification of these camping vehicles. These clubs often have rules that members need to have certified self contained campers (but make no mention of being responsible campers)!

Recently the issue of the possibility of a nationwide data base for certified self contained vehicles was raised.
Many suggest that the need for a database is evidence in itself that the Self Containment Standard is not working, and that the claims about fake stickers and questions over the legality of certification of some vans, is actually the most damaging perceived issue currently facing Freedom camping. Many that question the stickers and certification, have little real knowledge of the Standard. At times that has not helped by Government websites, (ie until recently one stated that a shower was a requirement of self containment certification - it is not and never has been).
Meantime a Councillor in New Plymouth has publicly claimed that any camper-van where the cooking can not be done inside, is non- compliant with the NZStandard - that is also incorrect and therefore damaging to Freedom Camping.

We now have certified self contained Micro Campers in NZ, following the current trend overseas which questions the reasoning behind hatred of small campers.

Is it a scam?

Freedom Camping News and many others believe so, it provides no benefit to Freedom campers or solutions to perceived issues and is no more than an income stream for a number of clubs. It is time that people started looking at it objectively and recognizing it is just another means of separating people from their money!

Freedom Camping News believes this will become an issue this year, with Councils and others being taken to task over denial of campers rights, by groups set up to fight for fairer Freedom Camping for everyone.


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