On our way into Wanaka the other day, we passed a sign that read "No Freedom". It was of course a "No Freedom Camping" sign but someone had taped across the word "camping" - neatly summing up the way we nomads and gypsies feel about the camping law in New Zealand.
Up until 2011, it was much easier to find a free campsite as many of the councils didn’t see freedom camping as a problem and there weren’t as many rules. But after the Rugby World Cup was held here in Aotearoa and thousands of football fans behaved badly in vans, a new law (Freedom Camping Act 2011) was passed giving councils more power to hand out fines. In order to do this they needed to follow a number of procedures such as designating campsites (if any) and the placement of "No camping" signs. The Queenstown Lakes District Council has arguably taken this more seriously than any other council in the South Island - most of the best locations to park up, such as on banks of its three big lakes (Wakitipu, Wanaka and Hawea) are designated "No camping" zones. Sigh.
Which is partly why, in the past few weeks, I've been experimenting with new mobile travel apps (conveniently, I've also had to do this for a new consultancy gig).
So far, the most useful app has been CamperMate, which includes about 340 free campsites scattered around New Zealand that are designated by local councils and the Department of Conservation. I find I am using this iPhone app all the time at the moment. I love how I can quickly find a service when I arrive in a town (such as the nearest dump station or public showers) - and, as you can see in the screenshot below, can easily filter by type.
I've also been playing with the Essential NZ app, the official Tourism New Zealand app. It includes things to do in 26 regions, which you can access while you're offline. Once you set up an account, it syncs with the selections you make online at newzealand.com and you can share your favourite activities. Like CamperMate, the app includes both a listing view and a map view.
While it's easy to use and includes some great info, my biggest disappointment is that you have to pay for everything - there are absolutely no FREE activities or suggestions. Sigh.
While not an app (although it should be) I also came across Okay2stay.co.nz during my tourism website research this week and think it's a great idea. Like CamperMate, it gives you access to more than 100 properties where it's free to park. Unlike CamperMate, it's not free to use - an annual membership costs $45. There's also an expectation that you will buy something during your stay – members are encouraged to purchase some of the delicious wares or exciting experiences the host has to offer. Since "Win Win" is the basic idea of Okay2stay, I'm OK with this - but I'd be much happier if the membership included an iPhone app. At least the website is "responsive", by which I mean it scales automatically to suit screen sizes, including mobiles and tablets.