We need your help – how we can stop track closures?

By Dex Fulton 13 Min Read

It’s rant time ladies and gents. Before I climb up onto my soapbox and feed my high horse a nosebag of hi-pro oats, I should mention that I fully understand that I’m preaching to the choir here and nobody reading Unsealed 4X4 would ever do these things. But we need your help in spreading the message and calling out the behaviours that are getting us shut out of this country. 

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Despite what a lot of people may think, four-wheel driving is not inherently bad for the environment – in many ways it’s beneficial. Take your time and re-read that last sentence, because it’s true. 4X4 enthusiasts keep tracks maintained, they clean up the beaches and bush (bringing in an empty bin bag and leaving with a full one is common practice), they facilitate invaluable tourism dollars being spent in otherwise seldom visited areas and are generally a pretty charitable bunch (see events like Long Drive for a Drought or Big Red Bash to name just two examples). 

But as with any subset of society that has 5.5 million members, there are bound to be a few bad eggs in the 4WD-owning community, and unfortunately, more often than not it’s the new-to-the-scene folks who are doing a lot of the damage. Put it down to youthful exuberance or old-fashioned ignorance, it’s up to those of us who have been in this lifestyle for a while to help educate those who are just starting their off-road journey. 

We’ll start by providing a list of things that need to stop. If you engage in these activities, you are the reason tracks get shut, communities turn against us and the general public would rather see us trading the Patrol for a Prius. You may not even know you’re being a part of the problem, so have a read and see if you’re unknowingly contributing to us all being shut out of our own bushland.

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If you do knowingly contribute to the list below, it’s time to pull your heads in, clowns, because the rest of us are sick of your shit. Fight me. 

Leaving rubbish behind

This is a no-brainer. As in, you’ve got no brain and are probably in dire need of a personality transplant if you do this. Forgetting to pick up a muesli bar wrapper your toddler dropped is not the same as leaving cheap, half-destroyed camping gear, unburned cardboard and actual bags of rubbish at a campsite for the next person to find. Your mum isn’t here to clean up after you anymore champion, time to slip into the big-boy strides and let go of your inner chimpanzee that decorates the wall of its cage with its own crap. You’re better than this. 

Driving on vegetation

Tracks get closed for this. It’s a pretty simple rule to follow, and your inability to use complete sentences or your not-fully-formed frontal lobe is no excuse for not following it. Say it with me: If it’s vegetated and not part of the track, don’t drive on it, and we can all keep enjoying our bush. Cool? Cool. 

Ripping up campsites (not so much on the tracks)

Oooh. You’re half a bottle of Bundy deep, your chest is puffed right out and you’re feeling like a proud peacock on full display. You have a great idea: cut a few hoops on a flat piece of maintained grass that other people might use for camping. 

We all know this person, and it’s on all of us to pull them up and aid them in pulling their head in. This behaviour gets campsites shut down and impresses exactly nobody, much like the 96kW your HiLux is putting out at the wheels there, legend. Burnouts are awesome, but so is breakdancing, and just like you wouldn’t bust out a helicopter at your Grandma’s funeral, you don’t gouge out the campground for the next person and get the custodians offside. It’s really pretty awful you need that explained, but here we are. Let’s move on. 

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Bottles in fires

“Just chuck in on the fire” works for quite a few things. Paper plates, empty dart packets, paper towels, the printout of your internet search history that someone keeps leaving on your dashboard… But you know what doesn’t burn? Things that are non-flammable (pause for gasps of astonishment from the audience). 

Your campfire is not hot enough to reduce glass to sand, nor smelt aluminium. It may well reach temps that’ll half melt a tin or shatter a stubby, which you’ll undoubtedly leave for the next group of campers to deal with because you’re a selfish a-hole who cannot be trusted with a stapler. Or, you’ll not throw bottles and cans on the fire in the first place and leave the camp neat and tidy because that’s what rad humans do. 


Not extinguishing fires

While we’re on the topic of fires, this one is not usually done due to being a moron, it’s usually just a case of not knowing the correct way to extinguish a fire. Pro tip: always put your fires out with water. Save some of your washing up water from the previous night or grab a bucket from a nearby creek or waterway if possible and douse your coals thoroughly. 

DO NOT bury your embers. They often continue to burn, only now it’s covered in dirt or sand – the next family rocks up to pitch camp and a little one discovers your extremely skin-damaging coals with their bare feet. It happens and it’s intensely distressing every time you see it. Put your fires out with water folks. Please. 

Dumping cars and couches instead of going to the tip

Hey, I get it. Tip fees are expensive and times are tough. But that’s no excuse to dump your household junk in the nearest stretch of bushland. That’s just a dick move and is right up there with pushing old ladies down the stairs and waiting expectantly for the double-amputee to high-five you. If you’re that type of d-bag, let me remind you of a handy little PSA: every single council in major metropolitan areas in the country offer a household waste collection service for free. You can book one easily by calling your local council offices or googling the service closest to you. 

If you’re one of the people who dumps their household waste in the bush, you’re now officially out of excuses for being a stain on society’s undies. Time to grow up, Peter Pan. 

Cutting down trees

Again, you’d reckon this would be a no-brainer but apparently some folks struggle with basic concepts like green wood being absolutely terrible to burn and windows not being there for licking purposes.

I’m sure all of the pre-teens are super impressed with your new chainsaw that the guy at Bunnings upsold you on when you went in to buy a set of pruning shears, but keep it to the wood that’s already on the ground and well and truly dead eh? And maybe leave it at home altogether if wood gathering is not permitted at the location you’re headed to. Chopping down otherwise healthy trees, even the ones that “looked heaps dead and I’m totes helping out the firies by clearing it,” is generally frowned upon for a bunch of good reasons that I don’t have the space to list here. Let’s just agree that if you’re felling trees while camping and you’re not being employed by the land management team to do so, you’re being a knob, and you should cut (geddit?) it out. 

Not using the bush toilet properly

Ah yes, who doesn’t love seeing a whole heap of discarded poop-tickets fluttering around an otherwise pristine campsite? Look, there are literally hundreds of articles on the internet telling you the proper etiquette to answering nature’s call while you’re situated in nature, so I won’t go into detail here, but the cliff-notes for the truly gross folks who have never bothered to try and learn are: head off into the bush for a smell-resistant distance; dig a hole (preferably next to a fallen log or something so you have a comfy place to perch); poop in hole; place toilet paper in hole; burn contents of hole (a little accelerant can be handy, but you’re not trying to Hiroshima the campsite here); allow to burn until it’s ash; fill hole in. Job done. 

At the very least, bury it. Leaving your loo paper to blow in the breeze is just foul. Stop it. 


Not respecting private property

You wouldn’t be a fan of some yahoo rolling out their swag in your front yard, so don’t do it without express permission from the property you’re on’s owner. If you do have permission, it’s not cool to be a grub either. Most private properties that allow camping are doing it because they’re decent people, so don’t change their mind by trashing the joint with any of the behaviours listed in this yarn. I’m sorry if this sounds like common sense to you, but that’s the cruel irony of common sense – it’s really not that common. 

Not supporting local business (spend money in town and they might want you back)

This is an important one. It’s not lousy to not do it, but it’s important we all try to support the rural towns that indirectly host us when we head out on trips. Buy your groceries from a local market rather than stocking up from Colesworth before you leave. Grab a souvenir from a local artist. Hit the local bakery or café for a hearty feed before you head off-grid or after a weekend’s wheeling. 

So many local economies rely on tourism dollars and traffic to sustain their livelihoods, and they have been hit harder than most in recent years thanks to pandemics and rising costs of living and it’s up to our 4WDing community to help where we can. 

A rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s up our game when we’re in the bush and retain access to the greatest parts of this continent. Who knows, we may even get a few new spots opened up to us (a man can dream). 


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