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New Freedom Camping Bylaw strikes a balance

Waikato District Council’s new Freedom Camping Bylaw was adopted earlier this week.

Self-contained freedom campers visiting the Waikato district can stay up to three nights in one location*. The original proposal would have allowed people to camp up to five nights in one location, but this was reduced after receiving feedback from the public.

Mayor Jacqui Church says the bylaw gives people the right to freedom camp in our district, while also protecting the environmental, social, cultural and economic values of our communities.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for freedom campers but we also acknowledge that it does have an impact on the communities where they stay. The purpose of the bylaw is to find the right balance. There are reasons why we need to protect certain areas.”

Staff began reviewing the bylaw in 2022. Early engagement was held to get general feedback on the 2016 Freedom Camping Bylaw, followed by further engagement with community boards and committees, mana whenua and key stakeholders.

Public consultation on the proposed bylaw took place in July and August 2023, and 67 submissions were received. 

After receiving feedback from the public, Council decided on three nights as the maximum a person can camp in one location, instead of the five nights that was proposed.

Changes were also made to the Onewhero Domain permitted area, where people are allowed to camp in non-self-contained vehicles, and to some Raglan areas:

  • Stewart Street: The decision has been made to keep this as a prohibited area. It was proposed to be a restricted area.
  • Wainui Reserve Bush Park: Extending the proposed prohibited area up to and including the roadside.
  • Papahua Domain: Extending the prohibited area at Papahua Domain to include the carpark outside the campground. 
  • Aroaro Bay Reserve, John Street: Added a new prohibited area.

It’s important to be aware of the rules, says Mayor Jacqui.

Under the Self-contained Motor Vehicles Legislation Act 2023, freedom camping on local authority land is only allowed in self-contained vehicles. 

“The Waikato district is an amazing place and we want people to visit, but we encourage you to be respectful of where you are, and of the community and the environment.”

A full list of areas where freedom camping is prohibited or restricted in the Waikato district can be found here:


*You can not freedom camp in any one location for more than three consecutive nights in any one month. A person must not freedom camp within 500m of a location in which they have already been freedom camping.

Note: Location refers to the spot, not the town. For example, you do not have to leave Raglan after three nights. 

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