What The Heck is a Self-Contained Vehicle, and How do I Get One?
Updated: Oct 9, 2018
If you are doing any sort of long-term travel in New Zealand, you will have heard about self-contained vehicles and how in them you can camp for free all over the country. But what does that mean? A self-contained vehicle is certified to be able to meet all the needs of it’s occupants for at least 3 days, as well as all the waste they will produce in that time. In short, they carry water, collect waste, and thus encourage less impact on the environment.
The current guidelines for any vehicle seeking self-containment are:
Fresh water tank: 4 L per person per day (12 L per person minimum)
A sink: connected to a water tight sealed waste water tank
Grey/black waste water tank: 4 L per person per day (12 L per person minimum, vented and monitored if capacity is less than the fresh water tank);
Evacuation hose: (3 m for fitted tanks) or long enough to connect to a sealed portable tank;
Sealable refuse container (rubbish bin with a lid).
Toilet (portable or fixed): Must be able to fit inside your vehicle when the bed is set up. Minimum capacity 1 L per person per day (3 L net holding tank capacity per person minimum)
Even if a camper van 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. If your vehicle meets these requirements, any registered plumber can certify your vehicle for you. You can find a list of plumbers, phone numbers, and the latest updates here** (via the New Zealand Motorhome Association).
If you are purchasing an already self-contained vehicle, make sure it has both the self-contained sticker on the back AND the warrant card with a valid expiry date in the front left hand corner of the windscreen. You may see other variations on this sticker, or a green "Responsible Camper" sticker on a vehicle. These older certifications are valid until the date listed on their registration card, but are no longer the accepted method of self containment. Vehicles purchased new, and intended for sleeping in (an RV for example) will generally already be certified upon purchase.
After all that rigmarole, make sure you use your self-contained vehicle responsibly by taking your rubbish to a transfer station, and your wastewater to a dump site, so that everyone can enjoy the pristine beauty of these spaces.
Find out ways you can use your newly self-contained vehicle here.
** The NZMCAwill not certify vans currently, but other organizations still will.