News | 2 July 2018

Technology makes freedom camping more sustainable

We’re pleased to announce a new trial of a donation scheme launching in Wellington – using existing sensors to support a free travel app designed to make freedom camping easier and more sustainable, with the ability for campers to make a koha.

Campermate app and sensor
Adam Hutchinson, WCC Park Ranger Brian Thomas, and Oliver Vetter

The pilot, using the New Zealand developed CamperMate, is a partnership between Wellington City Council, CamperMate, and Sustainable Coastlines – the latter being the recipients of the donation platform.

The campervan market is estimated to be worth over $500m a year in New Zealand, and our regional camping strategy is designed to really capture a large proportion of that by providing bigger and better options for visitors to the capital according to Natural Environment portfolio lead, Councillor Peter Gilberd.

“The app gives visitors access to real time information and key locations, as well as an option to make a donation to Sustainable Coastlines – so it’s a win-win-win for everyone.”

“This technology has been at Wellington City Council freedom camping sites for a couple of years and allows us to gather more data on freedom camping visitor numbers and their activities, which will help us better plan for the future.”

Visitors can view real-time availability through the CamperMate app through the use of Smart Parking sensors installed in the ground, before they commit to driving to the sites.

CamperMate started in 2011 based on the idea of using smart phone technology to make it easier for tourists to access information, says founder Adam Hutchinson.

“We’re excited about this donation pilot project, in particular how to operate a sustainable freedom campsite. The tourism industry will also be watching closely, as this will set a blue print for how other councils may follow suite.

“We are wanting to not only educate visitors on responsible camping, but also create a culture of koha which helps the Council maintain a site and ensure freedom camping is sustainable,” adds Hutchinson.

The company was acquired by Tourism Holdings in 2015.

The donation platform on the app means all revenue donated would be given to Sustainable Coastlines, minus a small fee for the pilot. 

Sustainable Coastlines Wellington Programmes Manager Oliver Vetter says the waterfront and coastline is one of the drawcards for visitors, so a koha option to show their appreciation is welcome.

“This initiative will help us achieve our mission statement to enable locals and visitors to look after the coastlines and waterways they know and love. Providing a koha option to freedom campers in this trial will give them an opportunity to give back towards the environment they enjoy so much.”

The user can also give a digital donation through a payment platform developed specifically for this use case.

WREDA Destination Development General Manager David Perks says the merging of tech with tourism is a natural fit for Wellington and will help increase visitor numbers. 

“CamperMate should be applauded for offering its app users a koha service so they can become involved with kaitiakitanga of the environment, so visitors to New Zealand can embrace our values. If successful it will directly address reputational issues created by the poor behaviour of a very small minority of irresponsible freedom campers who visit New Zealand.”