About Park-Sleep

What, with the outlawing of freedom camping, you'd think us Kiwis aren't happy to have visitors. No worries, though. With Park-Sleep, independent travellers who want to get out and enjoy every corner of this country of ours still can.

Park-Sleep is pretty simple really. If you're looking for a spot to park up the kombi and stumble into your scratcher, now you can do it legally. Park-Sleep has a host of, er, hosts, you'll find right here who are happy to have you park outside their property overnight. What else you get will vary - that's up to the owner - but some might lay on power, water, even shower facilities. Just look for a Park-Sleep place in the location you're interested in, call the owner and they'll let you know what's on offer and for how much. Typically, it's cheap as chips,

And if you're interested in letting out a parking space, camp site or even a whole paddock to freedom campers, you can register here. Go on, extend a bit of Kiwi hospitality: you get to meet some interesting folk, earn a few bob and it might even have a few tax advantages - ask Murray your accountant.

New website sets freedom camping free again

With legislation having been passed on so-called 'freedom camping', exploring New Zealand by sleeping in a vehicle or camping at the roadside has begun to look like an uncertain prospect. As the country experienced a deluge of Rugby World Cup visitors, concerns have emerged that would-be tourists might limit their travels, hitting regional tourism.

Things are about to change, however, with the launch of an internet-based business called Park-Sleep. The idea is simple. Thousands of Kiwis have the space to let touring camper van drivers park overnight. Some even have facilities they can offer. By registering on the Park-Sleep website (www.park-sleep.co.nz), they can let campers know where they might find an accommodation park for the night. Costs and use of anything other than a parking space are agreed directly, and the host dictates everything including length of stay and what's on offer. Unlike home-stays or 'couch-surfing'' businesses, homeowners don't have to hand over a key or let anyone enter their home.

The idea is the brainchild of Brendan Waters, and at age 60 he's not your typical web entrepreneur. With decades-long experience in tourism, including the camper van motor home, RV vehicle rental hire sector, his practical knowledge runs deep. The idea seemed simple, logical and appealing, and the internet made it entirely possible.

With nearly 5,000 rental vans which hit the road for Rugby World Cup, and around 23,000 privately registered, the demand for spaces round the country is bound to continue to be high. The view of Waters is that Park-Sleep isn't so much competing with campgrounds as complementing them. "The campgrounds will fill up first", he insists. "Inevitably, they have all the facilities and will be first choice for most travellers. What Park-Sleep replaces are those spur-of-the-moment stops, single-night stays or stays in areas where there are no campgrounds. Freedom camping, in other words. Park-Sleep simultaneously solves two sides of the problem. It lets tourists on their grand trip around New Zealand enjoy staying in out-of-the-way places, while obviating the downsides we've heard so much about and which prompted the legislation." Park-Sleep listing will be open to campgrounds if they wish, and the site aims to include Department of Conservation and other sites.

The motivation for Waters was less to do with commerce and more about the good things Park-Sleep could do for New Zealand and visitors alike. "Like many Kiwis, I love it when visitors see and appreciate what New Zealand has to offer, " says Waters. "This is an idea that can clean up our countryside, provide a useful bit of income to the hosts, allow people to stay in some remarkable areas and give the opportunity to extend some great Kiwi hospitality - one of our greatest tourism assets." According to Waters, Park-Sleep could bring other benefits, too. "It might be a surf club that wants to raise some funds by letting out space with waterfront views, or a Rugby club or even a stay on a Marae - can you imagine the kick visitors would get out of that? It can also give people their first experience of working in the tourism industry, with potential tax advantages similar to homestays if you are letting part of your property out. Whether you are an established business like a country tavern or just your home."

Park-Sleep goes live in December 2011 and the company will be working hard to market the idea via suitable partners, including those vehicle rental companies that have previously appealed to freedom campers.

Freedom Camping NZ Parlimentary debates

For further interesting background: