A Whangarei freedom camping bylaw was in danger of heading down the path of elitism, so it's good to see our decision-makers back the campervan up a little.

After taking in just over 100 complaints in seven years, the Whangarei District Council had drafted a staunch bylaw aiming to protect our environment from pollution.

The draft proposed banning sleeping in a vehicle overnight on council land, unless in a purpose-built camper with a toilet, wastewater storage and a "self-containment warrant".

Not only did this limit freedom camping to those who could afford deluxe campers, it also meant anyone smart enough to sleep off the effects of one-too-many drinks in the back of a car on council land was breaking the bylaw. However, the bylaw has been rethought.


Some councillors were worried the WDC has been too hasty, plus legal questions had been raised around the WDC's consultation requirements. And although not the defining factor, seven of 42 public submissions on the draft wanted "non self-contained camping".

A list of sites will now be drawn up that will welcome visitors in campers that are not self-contained.

It seems a fair compromise. Free camping - also known as "wild camping" - is a privilege that Kiwis enjoy around Europe, often at designated areas that provide basic facilities.

And if you respect your surrounds and the locals, you may even get to spend the night somewhere for free, but wake up to a million-dollar view.

Hopefully we can allow visitors to Northland to experience that here, as well, and take not only great memories, but their rubbish with them as well.