DOC urges responsible camping this summer

Piano Flat campsite. Photo: Shellie Evans/DOC.

The Department of Conservation is preparing to host around 60,000 campers over the summer and is asking people visit respectfully and responsibly while it works to keep them safe.


DOC maintains more than 300 campsites throughout New Zealand which offer affordable holidays in beautiful natural settings, says DOC’s Heritage and Visitors Director Steve Taylor.


“DOC’s campsites are a mainstay of summer holidays for many Kiwis and we are working hard to keep these open and safe for people over the coming months,” says Steve.


“To protect yourself and others against COVID-19, it is even more vital to plan and prepare well for your trip – including assessing any risks for you and your group.”


From December 15 2021, eligible people aged 12 years and above staying in DOC accommodation – including all huts, lodges and campsites – must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.


“This policy prevents closures for the majority of these facilities under Red or Orange traffic light settings which would have caused disruptions for holiday plans across the country. It offers greater protection to all those who visit and work in these places, and allows people to plan their visit with more certainty.”


“Other DOC facilities including tracks, carparks and most toilets remain open for everyone.”


DOC also has a role in regulating freedom camping on conservation land and welcomes the changes to freedom camping rules announced by the Minister for Tourism last week says Steve.  


“The proposed changes will protect our environment, communities, and ensure people who choose to freedom camp in vehicles will do so in the right vehicle and in the right place.”


“DOC will be checking that those camping on public conservation land over summer are following the rules. This means camping where it is permitted and having vaccine verification or an exemption when staying at DOC campsites,” says Steve.


“This is a complex and ever-evolving situation as we deal with a global pandemic, and we’ll be continually reviewing health and safety risks at our sites over summer.


“As DOC manages a huge range of facilities, many linked to remote communities throughout the country, there will also be a need to address local concerns through site-specific risk assessments in consultation with iwi and communities.


“Where the public health risks at these sites are deemed high and are not easily mitigated, we may also put restrictions in place or close facilities at Red or Orange under the traffic light system.


“People should check the DOC website for the latest information before they travel.”

For further information:

Responsible camping guide:

  • Only camp in designated areas and comply with any restrictions or prohibitions on sites.
  • Sanitise or wash hands regularly
  • Where practical, wear a mask and physically distance around others not in your group
  • Always use toilets provided. There are toilets at all DOC campsites.
  • Take your rubbish with you if bins are not provided
  • Use a cooker, fireplace or BBQ. Light fires only where permitted.
  • Use biodegradable products and wash in a container well away from the sea, lakes or waterways
  • Always dispose of waste at official dump stations
  • Pay your fees to help keep campsites available in the future
  • Book in advance where possible to secure a campsite
  • Stay at home if unwell

Assess the risk with a pre-trip checklist

People considering staying in a DOC hut or campsite can use this checklist to do their own risk assessment for themselves and their group.

  • What traffic light is the region at – Red Orange or Green.
  • Will there be more vulnerable or unvaccinated people in my group (e.g. children under 12).
  • What are the sleeping arrangements:
  • hut/campsite capacity, shared hut, sleeping platforms or individual bunks
  • is it possible to camp outside or near a hut (so I can carry tents to use if needed).
  • Is the accommodation bookable – meaning a higher level of certainty around the vaccination status of others.
  • Will it be possible to sanitise hands, wear masks or keep 1 m distance from those not in my group (eg in huts or when using shared facilities like toilet blocks and campsite shelters).
  • Is it likely to be a busy period (e.g. Saturday night, holiday, weekend).

DOC campsites with availability over summer:

  • Waikawau Bay Campsite, Coromandel
  • Catchpool Valley Campsite, Wellington
  • Pelorus Bridge Campsite, Marlborough
  • Hans Bay - Lake Kaniere, West Coast
  • Peel Forrest Campsite, Canterbury
  • Whitehorse Hill Campsite, Aoraki Mt Cook
  • Milford Road campsites (Cascade Creek, Henry Creek), Fiordland
  • Purakaunui Bay Campsite, Catlins

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