Meaning of road

(1) A road means an area of land, whether surveyed or unsurveyed –

(a) dedicated, notified or declared to be a road for public use; or

(b) taken under an Act, for the purpose of a road for public use.

(2) The term includes –

(a) a street, esplanade, reserve for esplanade, highway, pathway, thoroughfare, track or stock route; and

(b) a bridge, causeway, culvert or other works in, on, over or under a road; and

(c) any part of a road.

Land access is pretty important when it comes to four-wheel driving. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it is way more important than having the latest bull bar, or LED light bar fitted to your truck. It is essential! Without access to land, where are you going to take your vehicle?

It is about time we separated fact from fiction, and truth from what you heard off a mate-of-a-mate at the pub. These are your land access truths (and responsibilities… access is not a right) in Australia, and how we can push things forward to keep the tracks open for generations to come.

WHAT IS CROWN LAND?

By definition, Crown land is land belonging to and maintained by the State, and is also considered public land. This includes Crown land held under lease, license or permit, community managed reserves, land retained in public ownership for environmental purposes, lands within the Crown public roads network, and other unallocated land. Basically areas such as National Parks, schools, hospitals, sporting, camping and recreation facilities are found on Crown land.

CROWN RESERVES: The bulk of allocated Crown land is made up of Crown reserves such as parks, nature reserves, sports grounds, caravan parks and camping areas. Public use of Crown reserves is encouraged, with the areas managed by reserve trust boards, local councils or State government departments.

TENURED LAND: Land that is leased or able to be used under an enclosure permit by the Crown for a wide range or purposes. These include agriculture, commercial, private, public and community uses.

SUBMERGED LAND: This includes most costal estuaries, many large riverbeds, wetlands and State based territorial waters which extend three nautical miles (5.5km) out to sea. Submerged lands may be leased, licensed for aquaculture and fishing purposes, or licensed to maritime services.

PUBLIC THOROUGHFARES

According to the Land Title Act of 1994, if a road is shown on an existing lease or it mentions a plan and the plan shows a road is excluded from a lease, the road is taken to have been always dedicated as a road and open for public use. If there is doubt, the Minister may refer the issue to court for further decision.

GAZETTED ROADS

Gazetted roads or tracks are those listed on maps and considered to be public thoroughfare. Under the Roads Act 1993, Gazetted roads cover roads that the Roads Authority (the artist formally known as the RTA…) are responsible for the managing, including those roads or tracks that travel through National Parks or State Forests.

Things get tricky when these gazetted roads or tracks pass through private property. When you have permitted right of way to access property, it is known as Easement (the right to use property for a stated purpose). Right of way is considered the legal easement, which provides the right to travel across property owned by another person. Farmers in particular are known for erecting gates and signs stating you are on private property and trespassers will be shot. By confirming with local councils if in doubt, you will arm yourself with the right information.

4X4 RIGHTS ON CROWN LAND

There is a minefield of legal jargon regarding this topic, enough to hurt a poor journo’s head! The first piece of advice I can offer, is if you are in doubt about land access, again please speak with the local council of the area and get them to prove if the land is, or is not open for public access as well as what restrictions are placed on that area, and if any roads are in fact closed to public use. Ask for a copy of the map highlighting the area too. It turns out there is a permit title holders can apply for, known as an Enclosure Permit allowing the application for road closures through this property.

Once you know you are visiting an area of Crown land, legislation is in place stating that no locked gates shall block the road or track. This is the reason why many farmers install cattle grids to keep their stock from escaping rather than a gate. Some areas like the Victorian High Country differ here, with seasonal track closures designed to protect the environment, and keep travellers safe from going too far into rough terrain in extreme cold weather.

This is smart management, and you will often see signage dictating when the tracks will be open or closed. Be prepared, do your research and don’t just rely on a map for information. If you are approached by someone claiming to own the land, and you know it is Crown land, calmly discuss the issue and see if there is a way to gain access and keep both parties happy.

TRACK CLOSURES

Okay, things get really tricky here. If after an inquiry or notice that is considered appropriate is tendered (i.e. someone complains about a track and wants it closed) and the local departments are satisfied a road or track is not required, the road may be permanently closed. The road or track is closed from the day a gazette notice is published. Public notice is required to be given in most cases, and there is a period of appropriate public notice required here too. On the other hand, if the road or track is a no-through road, the application is to close part of a road adjoining transport land or the road closure application is to close part of a road by a volumetric format plan of subdivision and the closure will not adversely affect the part of the road being used as a road, no notice is required. See what we mean about legal jargon?

The moral of the story, keep your ears and eyes open, and spread the word if you hear or see of any road closures. We as a community can then submit protest, and suggest realistic practises to maintain the roads.

CAMPING ON CROWN LAND

Free camping is a very hot topic, and one that is only going to gain momentum. While it can be hard to ascertain exactly where you can free camp, there are a few things you can do to help your situation.

Use current printed camping guides and books that illustrate campsites, and stay in these locations. You then have written proof stating you are in a free campsite.

Look for signage stating you can camp in that location. Having amenities and a fire pit doesn’t mean you can camp there.

Never assume you can camp in a location, even unused Crown land has regulations regarding areas that can be accessed for camping. It is not a free for all!

FIVE THINGS TO STOP DOING

1) Stop littering campsites: take all rubbish out with you

2) Stop disrespecting nature: leave the area in better condition
than you found it

3) Stop ripping it up: Circle work is lame, nobody is impressed… grow up!

4) Stop making your own tracks: Stick to formed roads or tracks

5) Stop pooping in the woods: It’s gross, bring your own camp toilet
(or bury and burn a safe distance away from rivers and campers)

INTERVIEW WITH THE DPI

We spent some time talking with the Department of Primary Industries in NSW to get their take on the matter of and access rights.

Unsealed 4X4: Are four-wheel drives allowed access onto Crown land?

DPI: “Four-wheel driving is not permitted on Crown land except in designated areas, or where advised through signage.”

Unsealed 4X4: Is camping on Crown land permitted?

DPI: The same applies to camping, which is not permitted on Crown land unless advised through signage. Camping is permitted on Crown land reserved for campsites, but not on other reserves.”

Unsealed 4X4: Are locked gates allowed to block a path on Crown land?

DPI: “Access restrictions often exist to restrict vehicle or pedestrian access to sensitive or unsuitable areas. Crown land users are not to enter areas that have restricted access.”

Unsealed 4X4: Where can four-wheel drivers find out more information?

DPI: “If in doubt, enquire with the local land manager (such as local Council or Crown lands office) for accurate information on the area in question.”

STATE FORESTS

Four-wheel driving is permitted in State forests, however only on formed public access roads and tracks. Bush bashing is not permitted. Vehicles must be registered, drivers/motorcyclists must be licensed and safety equipment (required by law) must be worn. Bulk firewood collection is not permitted so bring your own, and fires are not to be lit in fire bans or during fire danger periods (usually between November to April).

Camping is permitted in all State forests (except for Cumberland and Strickland State forest). Camping is not permitted in picnic areas, only designated camp areas. The exception to this is rest areas in places where major highways pass through State forests. Campsites cannot be reserved, and all State Forests are free to camp in.

HUNTING ON CROWN LAND

QUEENSLAND: Hunting is limited to feral animals on private property with the landowner’s permission. There is no hunting permit or fee applicable, and no animals are listed as game for recreational hunting.

NEW SOUTH WALES: Several different legislations in NSW are administered by separate government agencies. Appropriate licences, permits and regulations for your intended target species are required. The Department of Primary Industries Game Licensing Unit oversees the issuing of licenses, and there are 350 State forests declared as public hunting lands.

ACT: Limited to hunting feral animals on private property with landowner’s permission to hunt on the property. No species are listed as game, and no hunting on Crown land is permissible.

VICTORIA: Hunting of feral animals or pests is permitted on Crown land and private land under a State license system. Game hunting is seasonal, and bag limits apply.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: A hunting permit is required, which provides license to hunt introduced species. The hunting of game is seasonal, and non-introduced and many native species are off limits. Hunters must obtain written permission to hunt on private land.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Limited to taking feral and pest animals on private property only with landowner’s permission. There are no permits available, however there is motion to have this reformed to include the hunting of feral animals on Crown land.

NORTHERN TERRITORY: The Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment allows members of the public to recreationally shoot and hunt in certain area of vacant Crown land. There is a plan highlighting the exact areas in the N.T. where shooting is permissible. A permit is required to shoot on Crown land.

TASMANIA: Pest or feral animals can be taken at any time on private land, State forest and Crown land. Game hunting is permissible during declared open seasons.