Step by Step Guide to Getting Self-Contained in New Zealand
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This blog includes everything you need to know about getting self-contained certified in New Zealand. If you are planning on doing a campervan conversion, then reading this blog first is essential!
How to Get Self-Contained Certified in New Zealand
Converting a vehicle into a livable campervan or motorhome is an exciting journey, however, there are a few things that can make it stressful. In New Zealand, one of those things is a self-contained certificate. With this certificate, you have to option to camp in thousands of places across New Zealand completely free!
But without it, freedom camping becomes a lot more difficult and you risk getting a hefty fine.
Getting a campervan in New Zealand certified self-contained can be challenging and downright confusing. After getting my own van self-contained, I realized it didn’t have to be this way and instead it was actually quite easy once it was explained to me properly.
So in this post, I will outline all the things you need to get self-contained certified in a few simple and easy steps!
*This guide was written for the intended use of small van conversions (not larger fixed tank conversions. )It is also in accordance to the New Zealand self-contained certification standards, so be sure to check your local council’s requirements (if any) before starting your campervan conversion!
What is self-contained certified in New Zealand?
A self-contained certificate in New Zealand is a license that certifies that your campervan or motorhome can be self-sufficient for up to 3 days. This means dealing with all types of waste and providing ample fresh water.
All the requirements of a self-contained vehicle are based around those two rules and these both protect the environment and the user.
Who issues the self-contained certification?
Around New Zealand, there individuals and companies that check vehicles and issue self-contained licenses to them. They are usually plumbers. In some areas such as Queenstown, there are none and you will have to travel to find one. However, in areas such as Auckland, testing officers they can be found very easily.
What are the Self-Contained Requirments in New Zealand?
When you get a van self-contained certified you must declare how many people can live in the van. This is important because of changes the amount of freshwater and size of waste tanks you need. Most people get their campervans self-contained certified for two people. Once you’ve decided how many people will be living in your van, then you can start figuring out your requirements. Some things to consider are:
You must carry 12 liters of freshwater per person (4 liters per day for 3 days) you plan to get your campervan self-contained for. This means that for two people you need 24L or 3 people 36L. This tank must be opaque and made of non-toxic material.
Most tanks intended to hold drinking water will meet this requirement. The inlet (lid on portable tanks) must be no smaller than 25mm in diameter (unless it is pressure fed, then 12mm is fine.)
This tank will be connected to the sink in your van and sealed so it doesn’t leak. You need to be able to carry 12L per person (the same as the freshwater.) This tank needs a vent (mentioned below) that must rise from the grey water tank up to the sink and terminate outside the van. I used a hole in the step of my van for this but you may need to drill one. Please do not drill through the side of your van.
You must have a sink connected to your grey water tank via a trap. The trap can simply be a loop in the hose to trap water.
The sink also needs a tap that is connected to your freshwater tank. This can either be a pump tap or electric tap.
All of the water tanks must have vents. These vents allow air to flow in and out the tanks when water is being taken out or draining in.
If you have a fixed tank, this needs to be 3m. If your tanks can be removed then this is not important as you can simply remove your tanks and pour the waste out. Online it does say that even if your tank is portable you need this hose, however, during my certification, this wasn’t even brought up.
Rubbish bin with a lid
You need to have a rubbish bin. There is no size requirement for this.
The rubbish bin does need to be fixed to the vehicle to prevent the garbage from flying all over the place when you are in motion. A simple strap to hold the bin in place and upright will do the trick!
A fixed or portable toilet is required and must have 3L of waste storage per person. The new rules state that you must be able to use the toilet with the bed down and have some elbow room.
Steps to Hooking Up Your Sink for Self-Contained Certification
Step 1: Secure your sink and fresh/grey water tanks
Part of the requirements for getting self-contained in New Zealand is having your tanks securely fitted so they don’t move around while driving and having a fixed sink.
If you have a fresh and grey water fixed tank that can’t be removed then this isn’t an issue, however, if you plan to use portable tanks then you must have a way of temporarily fixing the tanks while you’re in your van.
I did this to my van by building a wooden frame around the sides and using elastic straps. However, there are no set rules to this and you can do it however you please.
The sink must be permanently installed. I did this by cutting a hole in my kitchen bench and gluing it in.
Step 2: Hook up the grey water tank to the sink
For your grey water tank, you will need to run a waste pipe from the bottom of the sink to the grey water tank. This must be watertight and must have a water trap. The rules around the size of the hose state that it must be no smaller than 18mm if the hose is less than 3m, and 25mm if it’s over 3m. For my setup, I only needed 18mm hose.
To connect the waste pipe to the grey water tank I drilled a hole in the tank and then glued in a plastic fitting that the hose could be hose clamped too.
The tank must also have a vent no smaller than 12mm in diameter that is connected to a hose that terminates outside the vehicle. This hose must travel higher than the waterline of the sink before exiting the vehicle. The Below diagram explains this.
I bought my vents from Burnesco and they cost me $12 each. These vents require you to simply drill a hole in your tank and push them in.
Step 3: Hook up freshwater
To hook up the freshwater tap you need to buy a hose that will connect to the fitting on your tap. Once you have this hose, drill a hole the same size in your freshwater tank. Then, run your hose from the bottom of the tank through the hole you drilled and up to the tap. You should be able to use hose clamps to connect this part to the tap.
In your freshwater tank, you should also have a vent. Install this the same way as the greywater vent but you do not need the extra hose connected to the vent to exit the vehicle.
Helpful Guidelines and Articles about Getting Self-Contained in New Zealand
One of the most helpful guides I found on the internet was this APCNZ guideline book to getting self-contained. If you are specifically converting a small van (like I was) then you can read the whole book, but page 14 is the most specific to the smaller van conversions.
Another helpful guide is this New Zealand government regulation handbook. This is the same as the guide above, however, I found it is written in a more confusing legal way.
Where to Buy Your Equipment?
Bunnings or Mitre 10 – These hardware stores are great for most of your hoses, glues, hose clamps and fittings, however, I could not get food grade hose from them.
Burnsco – These guys are a motorhome hardware supplier in New Zealand. They have the right size vents and food grade hoses for your freshwater. I also got my sink and pump tap from them. If there is a Burnsco near you go see them and they can help you out a lot when it comes to getting certified.
Repco – I got my water tanks from them. I only used them as I was in Queenstown and they delivered for free to my house. You could, of course, get these tanks at Burnsco or Bunning’s.
What did it cost to get self-contained certified?
Certificate – This cost me $150 but you can get it much cheaper. I was in Wanaka and there is only one guy who does it there so he charges what he wants.
Tanks – The tanks were $25 each so $50
Vents – $12.50 each so $25
Pump tap – $60
Sink – $100, you could get this much cheaper if you find one secondhand.
Hose clamps and fittings – $20
Toilet – $40 as I got my second hand. They are around $110 brand new
Bin – $6 from Kmart
Tools to remove tanks for dumping – $5. I bought a flat head screwdriver for the hose clams
Straps to hold tanks in place – $5
Total = $461
Keep in mind that fully converting my van cost more than the price above after calculating in the cost of wood, accessories, and extras (such as a second battery.) For a full list of how much converting my van cost, check out my guide to DIY Campervan Canversion!
Let’s be honest, making your own self-contained campervan in NZ is a lot of work! If you decide to rent on instead, check out our guide to campervan rental in NZ to help you decide on what exactly you need!
Getting my van self-contained was a big hassle and my goal for this post is to make it easy for others. If there is something you don’t understand or need help with just leave a comment below and I’ll help you the best I can.
If you would like more informtion on building or converting a van into a camprevan check out out all of our blogs about vanlife! And, if you plan on traveling in New Zealand, we have written a ton of blogs which include useful info on the things to do in NZ inlcuding road trip itineraries, the best places to visit, and more!
January 18, 2020