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Self-Contained Campervans in New Zealand

What is a self-contained campervan?

For ultimate convenience and to legally be able to “freedom camp” in New Zealand, you will need a self-contained campervan. But what does self-contained mean? We’ll go through what self-contained campervans in New Zealand are in this article.

Self-contained campervans are more environmentally friendly than your average campervan by storing freshwater and wastewater. Therefore, New Zealand rewards you with more campsite options that only allow self-contained vehicles, as well as the option to camp on public land where permitted. This article will tell you what you need to know about self-contained campervans for road tripping in New Zealand, from what they are to whether you should rent or buy a self-contained campervan.

What is a self-contained campervan?

First things first, let’s get the definition out of the way. Self-containment NZS 5465:2001 is the certification used to show that a campervan can contain water waste for up to 3 days. This includes water in the form of water supply, grey water (sink and shower water), and septic waste. In detail, these are the features a campervan must meet to be self-contained.

  • Freshwater tanks – 12L per person for three days
  • A sink via a smell trap/water trap connected to a watertight sealed waste water tank
  • Grey/black wastewater tank – 12L per person for three days, vented and monitored if capacity is less than the freshwater tank
  • Evacuation hose – (3m for fitted tanks) or long enough to connect to a sealed portable tank
  • A rubbish bin with a lid
  • Toilet (portable or fixed) – Needs to have a minimum of 3L per person for three days and be able to be used inside the campervan with the bed made up (for all vehicles certified/renewed after 31 May 2017).

Note: “per person” is measured on the number of people a campervan can sleep, for instance, a 3-berth campervan needs will need to meet the minimum tank storage requirements for three people.

Even if a campervan has all these features, it is not classed as “certified self-contained” until it has received a warrant under the NZ Standard for Self Containment of Motor Caravans and Caravans, NZS 5465:2001.

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Why use a self-contained campervan?

By storing the waste water in the van, rather than dumping it on the floor, it is much more environmentally friendly. Plus, it’s safer for public health.

There are also personal benefits, such as being able to use all of New Zealand’s campsites. Many campsites, including the free ones, do not allow vehicles without the self-containment certificate. There are approximately 340 free campsites to take advantage of. With this, you have more freedom to explore this amazing country without having to be on a constant lookout for showers, toilets and water. You can also take a look at some of the designated free campsites in our Campsites and Holiday Parks section.

You are also able to freedom camp on public land where permitted. Usually, signs will indicate where there is no camping allowed. Otherwise, if there are no signs, you can usually assume freedom camping in a certified self-contained campervan is allowed. Local councils are often changing their freedom camping bylaws, which differ between districts across New Zealand. We say if you want to freedom camp on public land, do some research first to see what are the rules for your chosen district in New Zealand.

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The Self-containment certification sticker

To know whether the campervan you are purchasing or renting is self-contained, look for the sticker on the front left-hand side of the windscreen.

If you have managed to get your own campervan, that you think meets the requirements but does not have the self-containment certification, you can get an inspection and certification for around NZ$55 if you are a member of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association. Alternatively, there are other issuing authorities for the self-containment certification, including: any registered plumber, All Points Camping New Zealand and other motorhome companies. Find out more in How to Get Your Campervan Certified Self-Contained.

To meet the requirements to obtain a certification sticker, the vehicle must have:

  • Freshwater tanks – 12L per person for three days
  • A sink via a smell trap/water trap connected to a watertight sealed waste water tank
  • Grey/black wastewater tank – 12L per person for three days, vented and monitored if capacity is less than the freshwater tank
  • Evacuation hose – (3m for fitted tanks) or long enough to connect to a sealed portable tank
  • A rubbish bin with a lid
  • Toilet (portable or fixed) – Needs to have a minimum of 3L per person for three days and be able to use inside the campervan with the bed made up (for all vehicles certified after 31 May 2017).

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Where to dispose of your water waste

By having a self-contained campervan it is your responsibility to empty the wastewater when needed in a safe and an environmentally-friendly way. The answer to this is to use “dump stations” to dump wastewater.

There are heaps of dump stations in New Zealand to safely dispose of your campervan water waste. You can ask the local i-SITE for their locations. They are often also featured on most local maps, as well as camping apps.

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Should you rent or buy a self-contained campervan?

Visiting New Zealand on a short trip? Renting a campervan is the fastest and most convenient way to hit the road. Campervan rental companies should explicitly say whether their vans are certified self-contained. (Beware, some will say they are “self-contained” but this doesn’t always mean they are “certified”). For more information on renting a campervan, head over to The Essential Guide to Renting a Campervan in New Zealand.

Staying in New Zealand for more than a couple of months? In this case, it will be much more cost-effective to buy a self-contained campervan and sell it at the end of your trip. This is, however, quite time consuming so leave yourself a couple of weeks at both ends of your trip to allow time to buy and sell. Get more information at Travel by Campervan in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide.

More road trip tips!

Like the sound of taking a road trip around New Zealand? Take a look at our other articles.

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