The summer season is one which invariably sees open warfare break out between local councils and so-called ‘stealth’ campers.
In some popular tourist destinations, residents are constantly up in arms about brazen campervan travellers who set up chairs and tables on suburban footpaths, hang laundry on the trees, and create noise and mess.
While local authorities may hit back by issuing fines and increasing ranger patrols, sheer economics dictates that the ‘problem’ will probably never disappear.
Young, budget-minded travellers are generally blamed for the worst of the unsociable camping behaviour, but they are not the only ones who are unwilling or unable to pay the high costs of staying at a caravan park night after night.
Grey nomads like Jack W is happy to call himself a ‘stealth camper’ but he is at pains to point out that those who draw attention to themselves with offensive actions are not worthy of the title.
“The art of stealth camping is firstly be aware of where you are going to stay the night … do not disregard signage and do not park in front of council offices or police stations,” he told the Grey Nomads. “You should stay only one night and for chrissakes do not put the awning down or get out the table and chairs!”
He says that parking in front of someone’s house is a ‘huge no-no’ and an act that would justifiably leave homeowners feeling irate.
Jack, 70, has been living on the road full time for six years with his Husky dog bosu’n and says he is doing his best to grow old disgracefully.
While his Mazda 24600 Winnebago motorhome is not as unobtrusive as some smaller campervans, he says it is an excellent vehicle when he spends the night near a park, in a commercial centre or an industrial estate, or near waste land.
He says stealth camping has changed a lot since the days back in the ’60s when he slept in the back of his XY panel van at Wanda beach, Cronulla.
“It wasn’t much of an issue back then, just part of the scene, and we thought we had a right to camp in our own country,” he said. “However, population growth brings more strident crowd control, now we share the road with the homeless and overseas vanpackers who don’t always do the right thing.”
Jack admits to having had a couple of run-ins with rangers over the years, but hasn’t as yet copped a fine.
“Most rangers will not make an issue if one is apologetic and panders to their egos,” he said. “But you should always stay sober when stealth camping so that, if you are ordered on, you can make your excuse – such as I wasn’t feeling well, or I was tired, or I was waiting for mechanic – and go.”
He says that diplomacy will get stealth campers off the hook 99.9% of the time, or ‘non spreken Australien’.
While Jack admits to being a ‘stealth camper’ … he says that he shouldn’t have to be.
“If all towns provided the excellent free overnight facilities such as those that can be found at the town common in the South Australian township of Kingston SE, then so-called stealth camping would quite rightly be a non issue,” he said.