Tougher rules around freedom camping could include $1000 penalties, making rental companies liable for fines or even an outright ban on camping in vehicles that don't have a plumbed-in toilet.
Those are some of the proposals announced by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash during a visit to Bay of Islands Holiday Park as part of a wider ''reset'' of tourism while the borders are closed by Covid-19.
Nash said his preference was to take non-self-contained campervans off the road entirely, but the discussion document released yesterday included other options such as allowing them to stay only at campgrounds with toilet facilities.
The document also proposes upping the maximum fine from $200 to $1000, increasing powers to confiscate vehicles, and making rental companies responsible for collecting fines.
In the current system rule-breakers could ''just park up and leave'' without paying their fines, he said.
Nash said he had no issues with self-contained campervans — ''we love those'' — but vans with no onboard toilet were harming the country's environment and its ''100 per cent pure'' brand.
''If they park up and there are no facilities there is only one place they can go and it's not in their van. I don't think this plays into our values and the brand we're selling, and I think it erodes the social licence for tourism within our communities.''
The proposals did not target budget tourists who, according to MBIE statistics, spent $7912 per trip to New Zealand — almost double the $4890 per trip spent by well-heeled visitors hiring premium vehicles.
''This isn't saying we don't want budget tourists. It's saying if you want to come to this country there are plenty of campgrounds, DoC huts, places you can rent a car, pitch a tent and experience the wonders of New Zealand.''
It was a sub-group of freedom campers, not all from overseas, who spoiled it for others, Nash added.
Other proposals included strengthening the current certification system by requiring a registered plumber to sign off vehicles as self-contained.
It would no longer be possible for companies to provide a bucket with a piece of plastic wrap over it, as was sometimes the case, and claim that made their vans self-contained.
Making rental companies liable for any fines would encourage them to ensure customers knew the rules before driving off.
Nash said councils would welcome the changes because it was often their staff who had to pick up the excrement left by people in non-self-contained vehicles.
''That is not what we want from people coming here and not the sort of behaviour we expect in beautiful Northland.''
Nash said no other topic had generated as much correspondence in his time as minister.
Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime said she had also received a lot of feedback about freedom camping, especially in her time as a district councillor.
''They aren't anti-tourism but they want it to be done in a way that's not going to impact on them as locals. It's the toilet taper, the sanitary products, left for them to pick up.''
A regular walker of the Oromahoe Traverse near Paihia, Prime said she often found toilet paper in the parking area. She had once even found someone in a non-self-contained van trying to camp on her driveway near Moerewa.
Nash said the changes would also support campground and hostel owners who had lost business in recent years.
Bay of Islands Holiday Park assistant manager Jenny Johnston welcomed the changes, especially a proper certification process for self-contained vehicles and bigger fines, though she suspected some would be unable to pay.
''Unfortunately there's a few who ruin it for everyone else,'' she said.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa supported Government efforts to better manage freedom camping, though chief executive Chris Roberts said it had to be remembered that not all freedom campers were the same. The included international and domestic travellers, grey nomads, seasonal workers and the homeless.
''The majority act responsibly and obey the rules. It's only a small number who create problems.''
Local Government NZ said the proposals could reduce the impact of freedom camping on council budgets and the burden on ratepayers.
■ Go to www.mbie.govt.nz/have-your-say to check out the Supporting Sustainable Freedom Camping discussion document or to make a submission. Consultation is open until May 16. A public meeting about the proposals will be held in the Cafler Suite, Forum North, Whangārei, from noon to 2pm on April 15.