Is time running out for shower stealers?

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With caravan parks both very busy and very expensive during the holiday season, the free camping phenomenon is once again at its most visible … and ‘shower stealers’ are roaming the amenities blocks.

While overseas backpackers tend to draw most attention from council rangers for kerbside camping in residential districts, budget-minded grey nomads are also increasingly looking to save a few dollars, And, it’s not just on the streets of towns like Byron Bay where the ‘problem’ is upsetting local residents and caravan park owners.

Western Australia’s Department of Environment and Conservation has just launched a crackdown on people illegally camping along the coast. The recently opened Indian Ocean Drive has made it easy to access the coastal areas between Perth and Geraldton and these are increasingly popular for free campers. Department spokesman Brad Rushforth says various areas are being patrolled frequently over the holiday period and move-on notices issued to offenders.

He says some areas are environmentally fragile and can be damaged by illegal campers.

Not surprisingly, van park owners are particularly upset when these non-paying campers ‘sneak’ into their premises to use the facilities.

It’s not just an Australian problem, either. Across the Tasman, the New Zealand authorities introduced the Freedom Camping Act earlier this year allowing councils to fine freedom campers parking in restricted public areas … but the law has not stamped out the practice.

‘Shower-stealing’ freedom campers have reportedly been sneaking into holiday parks around the country to use the facilities in big numbers.

The New Zealand Holiday Parks Association said it received daily complaints about the problem from parks. Dubbed ‘shower-stealers’, they ghost into parks to use toilet, shower and laundry facilities … before making a clean getaway.

“It can get people into very heated situations – on both sides,” chief executive Fergus Brown told the New Zealand Herald. “It’s one which is very difficult to handle.”

Van park owners say it can be easy to spot ‘interlopers’ when they appear lost and confused as they first enter a park. Some proprietors try to charge those they catch in the act for a full night’s accommodation.

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