POLICY No 1, June 1978

| Introduction | Definitions | Policy |


Aware of the severe environmental and social impacts that have resulted from the proliferation and poorly controlled use of motor vehicles on natural lands, the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) believes that such use must be adequately controlled and restricted, and on the majority of such areas, prohibited.

The types of motor vehicles used on natural lands include ordinary cars, special purpose cars and trucks (e.g. 4-wheel drive or 4WD), dune buggies, trail bikes, oversnow vehicles (e.g. snowmobiles). amphibious craft, and hovercraft. Motor vehicles can have a heavy impact on unsealed bush roads, and off roads in bushland, particularly in or bordering wetlands and on vegetated sandmasses. Asdsociated biological problems can be introduced: e.g. plant pathogens such as Phytophthora cinnamomi (Cinnamon Root Rot) and various weed seeds. There are also increased risks of fire and littering.

On beach backshores, severe damage to sand-binding vegetation can occur, resulting in dunes becoming prone to excessive wind erosion and migration. Even on the intertidal zone, it is likely that some sand-dwelling fauna are affected by compaction of the sand in heavily trafficked areas, where seabirds are forced to rise and resettle constantly. The value of these natural lands as habitat and places of aesthetic appeal and human escape is reduced.

There are also severe social effects. The noise and air pollution - indeed the very presence of motor vehicles on natural lands, particularly in national parks, other conservation reserves and beaches, reduces their value for passive recreation of all kinds.

People have an inalienable right to the opportunity to escape from the artificial impositions of others, and certain areas must be guaranteed to be free from motor vehicles.

The Recreational Vehicles Act (1983) is wrongly based, in that it assumes a basic right of motor vehicles (MVs) to go anywhere, with certain exceptions. NPA asserts that the NSW law should reverse this: that , as in Victoria, motor vehicles should be prohibited from going anywhere with certain exceptions, the principal of which is the public road system. The ethical basis for this view is that, where there is conflict over access to natural areas, the passive areas should have priority of consideration as they cause the lesser environmental and social impacts.

Vehicle owners and drivers are well provided for in NSW: the network of roads denies access to very few places, taking the State as a whole. Roadless areas in the remnant areas of naturalness left to us, particularly the "protected" areas, have become too precious for us to tolerate increased vehicular intrusion, as is constantly threatened by an active 4WD lobby.

This policy should be read in conjunction with Policy No.4 (Road Systems in National Parks) and Policy No.20 (Appropriate Recreation in National Parks).


For the purposes of this policy:

Motor vehicle (MV) means any vehicle essentially for use on land, propelled or assisted by a motor or an engine.

Natural lands means lands essentially and substantially in a state of nature, functioning as natural systems.

Protected areas are areas reserved for nature conservation and protected from influences contrary to or threatening nature conservation objectives. Examples are: national parks under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1974; declared wilderness under that Act or under the Wilderness Act, 1987; flora reserves under the Forestry Act, 1916; water catchment areas under the Catchment Management Act.

Environmental impact means adverse effects of human activity on nature, which includes natural environments, native flora and fauna, ecosystems, biodiversity, landscapes, water bodies (e.g. streams, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters), scenery etc.

Social impact means the adverse effect on a person or persons of any human action, activity or man-made object, which they consider undesirable, unacceptable or inappropriate in a natural area.

Passive recreation is recreation which has a minimal impact upon the natural environment and wildlife, and upon the enjoyment and seclusion of other people.

Public road system: a system of roads in a natural area which are designated under the plan of management for that area, or by other means in the absence of such a plan, for vehicles driven by any members of the public.


1. Motor vehicle access

Motor vehicles on natural lands should be driven only on formed roads, with the exception of those areas and circumstances listed under 2. below.

2. Off-road driving

Permissible driving off formed roads on natural lands should be only where this is provided for on:

2.1 Recreational Vehicle Areas (RVAs) under the Recreational Vehicles Act, 1983

2.2 Freehold or leasehold lands or permissive occupancies, with the consent of the owner, lessee or occupant, and limited by the terms of the lease or PO permit, any additional conditions set by the owner, lessee or occupant, and the conditions of any conservation agreement or the like, provided adequate provisions for minimising environmental impact (e.g. erosion and weed control) are in place.

2.3 Public lands under circumstances of special need, such as emergencies (e.g. fire, and rescue where life is threatened) and research where there are no reasonable alternative means of access, and special permission by the land manager has been given because it is expected that there will be a net benefit to the area (e.g. nature conservation research of some kind).

3. Protected areas

3.1 Within protected areas (as defined), access by motor vehicles driven by the public on natural lands should be limited to roads and parking areas designated for public use in management plans. (See also NPA Policy No.4: Road Systems in National Parks).

3.2 Management roads or fire trails in national parks and reserves under the NP&W Act 1974 should not be made available for private vehicular use. There should be no so-called "controlled access" arrangements made available to exclusive groups of private vehicle users.

3.3 Existing road and track systems should be assessed and reviewed at an early stage to provide interim management guidelines determining appropriate uses in the public interest pending development of the plan of management.

The public interest includes nature conservation and community education

4. Private lands

The use of motor vehicles on freehold, leasehold and permissive occupancy lands should be permissible with the consent of the owner, lessee or occupant, but limited by any conditions set by the owner, lessee or occupant, or any conservation agreement and the like between the above and the state government, and provided adequate provisions for minimising environmental impact (e.g. erosion and weed control) and social impact (e.g. excessive noise close to urban development or neighbours) are in place.

5. Right of review

The government should establish the right to review terms and conditions of leases and permissive occupancies on an individual basis, particularly in regard to road construction, and to impose limitations on the rights of freeholders to permit the use of MVs on their properties where excessive environmental damage to the subject land and/or to the adjoining land, or excessive public nuisance, would otherwise be likely to result.

6. Oversnow vehicles

Vehicles used for transport over snowfields on national parks should be used only for management, research and rescue purposes, except where confined to the public road system.

7. Beaches and dunes

Coastal beaches and dunes should be free of motor vehicles, the following exceptions only being permissible:

7.1 Rescue in life-threatening circumstances

7.2 Management access where roads are absent. Use of beaches as management roads should be as sparing as possible. Coast-parallel hind-dune roads should not be formed or constructed as an alternative.

7.3 Professional fishing from the shores of national parks and nature reserves should be phased out, but permitted temporarily by non-transferable annual permit which prohibits driving above High Water Mark. No new permits should be issued.

8. Wilderness

No vehicles of any kind or for any purpose should be permitted within wilderness areas designated under either the Wilderness Act 1987 or the National Parks & Wildlife Act, 1974, except in life-threatening emergencies. Other rescues can be by helicopter if necessary, but any vegetation clearing required must be minimal and the area later rehabilitated.

.9. Road closure

Land managers should reserve the right to close a road to traffic when necessary, e.g. during protracted wet weather, high fire danger periods, road in a state of gross disrepair.

10. Penalties

Severe penalties must be imposed for motor vehicle damage to natural values, particularly in protected areas and to flora and fauna.

11. Management roads

The use of management roads must be limited to management, research and rescue, or other emergencies.

12. Recreational Vehicles Act

12.1 The Recreational Vehicles Act 1983 (amended 1998) should be amended so that its basis is the general prohibition of motor vehicles driven off formed roads, but retaining the provision for driving on certain areas - Recreational Vehicle Areas, or RVAs - designated for that purpose.

12.2 RVAs should not be provided within existing or proposed protected areas.

13. RVA environmental impact

Recreational Motor Vehicle Areas provided under the present RMV Act should be established only where the environmental impact is:

13.1 low in terms of noise pollution and visual intrusion in relation to nearby residential areas, passive recreation areas, declared wilderness, and other areas of high environmental or biological values,

13.2 low in terms of biological or environmental damage or disturbance, or

13.3 unlikely to be extended to adjoining areas in the form of excessive water run-off, turbidity, siltation, weed infestation, oil pollution, etc.

14. Registration

14.1 All motor vehicles, whether intended for use on public roads only or off the public road system, should be registered under the Motor Traffic Act, to facilitate their regulation and control.

14.2 New types of off-road vehicles, whether imported or made in Australia, should not be registered until an assessment of their potential to cause environmental damage or social nuisance has been made by the Government.

15. Recreational Vehicle organisations

Drivers and riders should be encouraged to join these clubs which educate members in regard to environmental and social responsibility. This statement does not imply in any way that NPA condones certain vehicle uses considered acceptable by many clubs, but which are contrary to NPA policy, such as driving on beaches (even though confined to the intertidal zone), in declared wilderness, and off the designated public access system in national parks and other reserves.

16. Advertising

Recreational vehicle advertisements should promote an environmentally and socially responsible attitude towards recreational vehicle driving in natural areas. Advertisements should be required by law to avoid giving the impression that such driving need take no account of environmental damage, or can be off-road in national parks and wilderness.

Adopted by State Council in June 1978
Amended by State Council 2/5/92
Amended by State Council 1/5/99


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