How to LEGAL Fly a Drone over Doc Land – Backpacking Tips

Permission for recreational drone use on DOC land

Did you know that you need a permit from the Department of Conservation (D.O.C) to fly over Doc Land in New Zealand?

It was only a few months ago when I called the D.O.C and asked for a permit for drone shots in Golden Bay. I found out the following.


What this article is not about

I would like to make it clear that this article was not written to show how perfectly I stick to the rules. To be honest, I also broke the rules until I found out I needed a permit and how to get it. I wrote this article to make it easier for you to get approval for your drone.


Photo by Dion Tavenier on Unsplash


Let's get started

The first thing you need to know is that you have to apply a permit. You can find more information on the following DOC website.

Go to the Doc website and klick on the type of flight you want to do. If you want to fly for you or personal videos, then this is called recreational use. Klick on the link and read the website. Then open the PDF „recreational drone use application form“. Then go on with reading in this article.


What to fill out

General application

On the website linked above, you will find the headline “apply for your concession”. Go there and then open the PDF „recreational drone use application form“. In the document you find all explanation needed.


You will also find a list of criteria you need to meet to get approval. If you do not meet all of these criteria you will need to apply for a long term permit. But don’t worry, normal drone usage usually just hits the criteria.


If you only want to use your drone in your spare time (not business) then you will be eligible for Personal Recreation Aircraft Landing Activity and the fee is around 65 NZD plus tax (74,75 NZD all together). The fee applies for every DOC region, so if you are travelling whole New Zealand, then the fee might apply a few times. The maximum time for a permit is three month, but you can choose the day of start.

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Once you have completed this form, you can continue with the second form.


Second form attachment with locations

The second form is just an attachment where you can fill in all the places you want to fly. You can find it on the same website where you downloaded the first form (here). There are some forms with the regions Marlborough, West Coast, Canterbury, Otago and Fiordland. In these forms you already have a list with some places, and additional conditions if there are some for the place. You need to tick all the places you’d like to fly.

If you want to fly outside of the recommended areas, then you need to attach a list with all the recreational areas you want to fly. DOC provides a map (DOC maps) where you can find out all the areas.


After you filled out the application and the attachment with the locations, then you can email it to permissions@doc.govt.nz. After that you will receive further instructions what to do and where to pay. Normally a decision will be made within 5 working days.


If a positive decision is made to one or more of your places, you will receive a contract to sign and a bill to pay.


Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash


A few additional tips

Check the areas where you want to fly:


Not all D.O.C estates are suitable for flying and allowed. Some areas have limitations, others are completely forbidden. This is especially true in National Parks and many famous walks. Unfortunately, there is no online map to see these special areas. The most practical way you can access is with the GIS map viewer which shows you all public D.O.C nature reserves.


View Open GIS Map



Contact the D.O.C Office:


I would highly recommend you take the next D.O.C Office from where you want to fly. Just to have the opportunity to discuss it with an employee in the office if necessary. Getting a permit for your drone flight will also help you get some insights on how to handle drones. When I found out that drones were treated that complicated, I thought, “Oh, really, that doesn’t make any sense!”. I was very frustrated when I imagined the endless process I had to go through. But after a few emails, I found that the D.O.C was simply overrun by the great success and popularity of drones. That's why they had to come up with a short-term solution.

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When flying

Carry your approval with you. If you meet a D.O.C ranger while flying with your drone, there is a high chance that he will see your permit. It would be a shame if you went through the whole process and then you don’t have your approval with you. Apart from that, it can be punishable without a valid permission.


Useful links

Drone use website by DOC

List of D.O.C offices

GIS map viewer

Map with D.O.C Land marked

Map with air zones of New Zealand


I hope these instructions and explanation will help you to fly your drone legally in New Zealand. Write a comment if you still something unclear. I try to pass questions to the original creator.


Questions, ideas or anything else

If you have requested and received a permit, we look forward to your comment. You have any questions left or anything else we missed in this article, than please leave a comment underneath as well. Thanks in advance! Have fun flying your drone in New Zealand.



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Ask us anything


  1. Hi Julian
    We will have a 5 days sailing holiday in Queen Charlotte Sounds and 10 days road trip to Abel Tasman Regional Park, Nelson Lakes West Coast, Hanmer Springs in December 25th to Jan 08.
    Can fly my small drone 249 gr, DJI Mini SE. I appreciate your assistance. I am very disappointed to hear that I need a permission.

    • Hi Orhan,

      the answer is pretty straight forward. You can’t fly in any of those locations with any size of drone, unless you have permission of the landowner.
      In case of DOC that needs to be requested as described here.

      On top of that, make sure when you apply for a permit, that you are more than 4km away from all airports & heliports.

      Flying a drone in New Zealand is sadly not an easy task.

      Good luck with your permits,

      Cheers Julian

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