How to Get a Certified Self-Containment Certificate
Having a self-contained campervan, motorhome or caravan is essential for any traveller wanting to save money on camping by being able to freedom camp in New Zealand. Not only that, it means you have all the living conveniences in your adventure-mobile for a smoother trip. However, to avoid fines for illegal freedom camping, your vehicle needs to be certified self-contained under the Self-Containment Standard NZS 5465:2001. In this guide, we’ll go through how to get your campervan certified self-contained.
To start off, you will need a self-contained vehicle. See What is a Self-Contained Campervan in New Zealand to learn more about what a self-contained campervan is. Plus, even with a self-contained vehicle, you also need to understand the rules around freedom camping in New Zealand, which you’ll find outlined in our Freedom Camping Guide.
Campervan Checklist to Be Eligible for a Self-Containment Certification
Once you have a self-contained vehicle, make sure it has all of the following before getting an inspection. These are the requirements outlined in the Self-Containment Standard NZS 5465:2001 in order to receive the self-containment certification.
- Fresh water 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 fresh water 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.
If you think your vehicle is missing any of these requirements, you can hire a plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer to install compliant systems for you. In this case, we recommend you choose a plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer that is registered as an issuing authority and/or self-containment officer. See below for more details.
For tips on how to check if your campervan is suitable for the self-containment certification, see How to Convert Your Van into a Self-Contained Campervan.
Certified Self-Contained Campervans for Sale with Backpacker Car
For camping vehicles already kitted out with the kitchen, fresh water and waste water tanks, portable toilet, a comfy double bed and more, check out the offering from Backpacker Car. Their certified self-contained campercars and campervans are all kitted out and can even be reserved before you arrive in New Zealand. At the end of your trip, the team offer a buyback scheme to even make the selling process a breeze. Check out their offering of cars and campervans for sale at backpackercar.co.nz.
What Type of Vehicle Can You Get Certified Self-Contained?
In short, a caravan (including pop-top/sprite hardtop caravans), motorhome or campervan that has facilities for living, i.e. cooking, sleeping, washing, toilet, etc. The vehicle’s purpose must be for accommodation that can be transported. The Self-Containment Standard NZS 5465:2001 defines these types of vehicles as the following:
Any structure designed for human habitation that is capable of being moved from one place to another, by being towed, or transported on another vehicle.
A motor vehicle which can be used as a place of abode and has facilities for cooking, eating, sleeping and washing and is not a passenger vehicle. Note that a passenger vehicle includes “cars, vans, people-movers and some off-road vehicles.” However, these types of passenger vehicles are no longer considered passenger vehicles if they have been adequately converted for the purpose of accommodation. Vans that have been converted into campervans fall into this vehicle definition.
Note: The New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA), a popular issuing authority (see below), has temporarily stopped NZMCA self-containment officers to certify people-movers and similar small car conversions until further notice.
Learn more about the Different Types of Campervans in New Zealand.
Who Can Inspect and Issue Your Self-Containment Certification?
Your vehicle can be inspected by either a self-containment issuing authority or a qualified self-containment testing officer.
Self-Containment Issuing Authorities
The most well-known issuing authorities for the self-containment certification in New Zealand are NZ Lifestyle Camping and the NZMCA. However, any plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer can also be registered as an issuing authority, so be sure to consider all of your options in the most convenience location for you.
Self-Containment Testing Officers
A qualified self-containment testing officer is a member of an issuing authority and can inspect vehicles for self-containment warrants. For a vehicle being tested for self-containment for the first time, it will need to be inspected by two testing officers, unless a testing officer has inspected more than 20 vehicles and tested at least 10 vehicles per year, then the vehicle can be inspected once by that officer.
How Much Does the Self-Containment Inspection and Certification Cost?
Fees for the inspections and the issuing of the certification vary between companies. Usually, there will be a fee for the issuing of the certification and a fee for the testing officer’s time.
NZ Lifestyle Camping charge NZ$45 (at time of writing) for the issuing of the certificate to non-members of their organisation, or NZ$20 for All Points Camping members. An inspection with one of their testing officers is an additional fee with prices determined by your chosen testing officer. Alternatively, the NZMCA charges its valid members variable inspection fees (dependent on the inspector’s travel time and distance) for the inspection itself and the certificate on top of their membership fee. Registered plumbers, gasfitters or drainlayers have their own inspection and issuing fees.
What Does the Self-Containment Certification Look Like?
Once your vehicle has been inspected and approved as meeting the NZS 5465:2001 standard, then you should be issued a self-containment certificate and warrant of compliance.
Self-Containment Warrant Card/Window Card
Your self-contained vehicle must display the self-containment window card on the inside of the front left-hand side of the windscreen or front left-side window so that it is visible from the footpath. This is so council officers and Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers can identify your vehicle as a valid certified self-contained vehicle.
The Information and Numbers on the Self-Containment Window Card
The information on the window card includes:
- The registration number of the vehicle
- Date of issue
- The issuing authority
- Expiry date
- The maximum number of people the vehicle can accommodate.
The Self-Containment Certificate
A certified self-contained vehicle must also have the official self-contained certificate available in the vehicle. Remember to ask for this certificate when buying a new recreational vehicle or make sure it is included in the paperwork you receive when getting your vehicle certified.
How Long is the Self-Containment Certification Valid For?
The self-containment certification is valid for 48 months. However, the certification must be renewed immediately if any alterations to the setup are made.
The Self-Containment Sticker
When issued a certification and window card, you will also be given a blue self-containment sticker which is expected to be placed on the lower right-hand rear of the vehicle. The sticker states that the vehicle is certified self-contained to the NZS 5465 standard.
Although it is not a mandatory requirement to place the sticker, it is recommended to help give council and DOC officers a quick tool to identify a self-contained vehicle. Note that the blue self-containment sticker does not verify certification.
More About How to Get Your Campervan Certified Self-Contained
That’s it for our guide on how to get your campervan certified self-contained. For more tips on the whole self-containment process, take a look at the following guides:
- Vanlife in NZ: The Guide to Living in a Campervan in New Zealand
- Where to Buy a Backpacker Vehicle in New Zealand
- What Model of Car or Campervan to Buy for Travelling New Zealand
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in How to Plan a Campervan Trip in New Zealand.