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Step by Step Guide to Getting Self-Contained in New Zealand

Last updated : January 18th, 2020

our campervan conversion

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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!

Related Read:   Freedom camping in New Zealand

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.

hooking up the plumbing in our campervan conversion
This picture shows my set up under the sink. One thing to note is that the freshwater pipe (left) actually has a cover on it (leftover pipe from the waste pipe). I only did this as extra protection from the sun and underneath it is a 12mm hose.

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.

You can find a list of self-contained testing officers for the South Island here and North island here!

Related Read:   Guide to Buying a Campervan in New Zealand

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:

Freshwater Tank

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.)

Greywater Tank

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.

Evacuation hose

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.

guidelines to getting a van self contained in New Zealand
The bed is down and we can still use our toilet
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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.

Related Read:   Ultimate Guide to Renting a Campervan in New Zealand

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.

Guidelines to getting self contained in new Zealand
The guidelines to the sink. You do not need a plastic trap and can simply loop your drain pipe to create a trap.

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.

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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!

Our finished self contained van in new Zealand
The finished product of the campervan I built while in New Zealand

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!


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About the Author - destinationlesstravel

We are Dan and Bailey, just your typical thrill-seeking travelers! You will likely find us hiking, scuba diving, catching public transport, or just drinking beer at a hostel.

8 Replies to “Step by Step Guide to Getting Self-Contained in New Zealand”

  • Hi Daniel !
    Thank you so much for all this infos !
    However I have two questions for you.
    – Do both of the water tanks need a vent ?
    – Do they HAVE TO connect to the outside of the vehicle ? If yes do I need to just drill a hole in my van to fit the vent pipe in ? I’m a bit lost there..

    Thanks a lot

    • Hey!

      Yes, both tanks need a vent. This is to allow for the airflow needed when pumping water in and out of tanks!

      Yes, but only the grey water tank vent needs to be connected to the outside of the van. In my opinion, this is silly but it is required. If you are going to drill a hole try to find a spot in the step of the van at the door. Do not drill through the side of the van. In my Toyota Hiace, there was a hole that was already in the step from the factory which made mine easy. What kind of van do you have?

      For reference check out the photo in the blog of the two water tanks. You can see the right tank (grey water) has a vent and hose that travels down towards the step of the van. Just note that I didn’t run my hose higher than the sink like your suppose to but was let off by the self-containment officer.

      After reading the blog back through I can see how it’s confusing. I think I will edit the post the make it clear.

      If you have any more questions let me know!

  • Hi,
    I have just stumbled across this blog and note there is one error regarding the grey waste vent.
    It must rise above the bottom of the sink before exiting the vehicle.
    I am an SCO so I know this to be true. I see so many who have followed similar setups as this and have to fail them because of this simple mistake.

    • Hey Peter!

      Thanks, I do remember this but missed it in the blog! I’ll be sure to add it now!


  • Hi, nice clear article ,much appreciated just a quick query, what fittings do I use to get from sink waste to be able to attach the flexible waste pipe. Again great work

    • Hey Jared!

      This is a hard question to answer as I can’t see your sink however I will do my best.

      My sink had a large screw fitting attached to it that must have been around 60mm in diameter. This came with the sink and included the grate to stop food going down the sink. You can buy these separate at Bunnings. This is the piece I am talking about – https://www.bunnings.co.nz/kinetic-sink-plug-waste-40mm_p0302920 That one is 40 mm but you need the right size for your sink.

      Then in order to get my 18 mm hose to fit to it, I went to bunnings and went to the plumbing section that stocks all the black plastic fittings and just started connecting pieces that reduced the size until it fit. Pieces like this – https://www.bunnings.co.nz/rx-plastics-threaded-hex-nipple-25mm_p0897694 and this – https://www.bunnings.co.nz/rx-plastics-ltd-threaded-reducing-bush-20-x-15mm-black_p0890256 (examples only and not actual sizes.) There was no special piece with a hose connector. Instead, I just put the thread of the reduced piece inside the hose. The easiest way to do it is to take your hose and your sink fitting to Bunnings and start connecting pieces.

      You can see in the first picture of the sink the black fittings and the hose connected with a hose clamp. I made that part with the fittings I found at bunnings.

      I hope this helps but if not reach out again and I’ll try to explain it better!


  • Hi there! It has been a headache for sure trying to get my little trailer camper all self contained but I finally only have the plumbing to go! What sort of vent did you use for the fresh water? I have a hand pump tap so do I still need a vent? The self containment guy I spoke to didnt mention it so am confused once again lol also, are the hose clamps what you used to be able to take the containers in and out while still having them watertight? Thanks heaps for your help

    • Hey Shelly!

      That awesome! You are almost there!

      I got my vents from Burnsco. They are a retailer that sells these sorts of supplies. Here is the link to the product – https://www.burnsco.co.nz/shop/rv/water-container-vent-kit.To install the vent I just drilled a small hole in my plastic container and forced the vent through. It does come with a sharp plastic end to pierce through the plastic but it didn’t work so well.

      Yes, they are hose clamps. It’s the best way to attach everything so you can remove them.

      Hope this helps!


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