POLICY No 8, September 1987



Although national parks must be regarded principally as reserves for the conservation of nature, they are also used conventionally for certain forms of human recreation. By international agreement as to the nature and purposes of national parks (embodied in the IUCN definition of 1994), this use must be of a very low impact kind, attuned to the quiet ambience of natural settings. Of the relatively few forms of appropriate recreation in national parks calling for some degree of physical exertion, walking is the most generally recognised.

National park walking may range between short easy strolls on constructed tracks in the vicinity of relatively developed areas (e.g. campgrounds, picnic areas, carparks), to long and difficult, sometimes trackless, walks in wild and rugged country.

Tracks are considered desirable or necessary in some national parks to facilitate passage and increase enjoyment, and to protect the environment by confining most intrusion, disturbance and impact to the area in which the track is located.

Tracks are either constructed deliberately to various degrees of sophistication, or are formed inadvertently by the frequent passage of human and other feet. Ideally they should be planned, but are usually "inherited". The following attempts to deal with all aspects of track provision in national parks. The provisions could apply also to other reserves, modified if necessary by the extent of their differences in nature and purposes from national parks.


For the purposes of this policy:

* National park means national park, nature reserve and state recreation area under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, and declared wilderness under that Act or under the Wilderness Act 1987, and is the type of area and land use described in the IUCN definition of 1994:

A national park is a natural area of land and/or sea, designated to

(a) protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystems for present and future generations;

(b) exclude exploitation or occupation inimical to the purposes of designation of the area, and

(c) provide a foundation for spiritual, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally compatible.

* Track: A track is any way formed by or for human passage on foot or (subject to any specific management objective) on bicycles.

This definition is for the purposes of the policy, and is far more specific than dictionary definitions. "Track" is a general term which can embrace different classes or types of walking track as may be agreed upon from time to time, e.g. as proposed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS): walk, track and route; or different standards of construction, as adopted by the NSW Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs Inc: walking, constructed and cut tracks. "Tracks" used by motor vehicles should be regarded and referred to as roads. The NPA definition excludes obviously inappropriate usage such as by motor vehicles and horses. Bicycles should be limited to using roads, including management roads (except in declared wilderness), and special bicycle tracks.


1. Purpose of tracks in national parks

Tracks may be provided in national parks in order to:

2. Management plans (plans of management - POM)

2.1 The provision of tracks in national parks should be part of, and in accord with, other provisions of park management plans, which are required under S.72 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

2.2 All approved tracks should be clearly marked on management plan maps, including any yet to be constructed, which should be marked accordingly.

2.3 The reason for planning or approving each track should be clearly stated in the management plan.

3. Planning

3.1 The location and design of tracks should be subject to careful and detailed planning, so as to be in accord with both general and specific management objectives.

3.2 Subject to the objectives, tracks may enable the presentation of a variety of scenery, landforms and features, ecosystems, communities, observable wildlife, and recreation opportunities.

4. Unplanned tracks

4.1 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 public education.

4.2 Tracks which are not provided for in the management plan should be closed and allowed to revegetate with plants which are native to the area.

5. Limitation of track provision

A major proportion of any national park should be trackless (and roadless), as the essence of a national park is naturalness.

6. Wilderness

6.1 Declared wilderness should ideally be trackless, and the management plan should not provide for the construction of wilderness tracks.

6.2 Existing tracks in wilderness, if consistently used (i.e. enough to keep them open), should be kept in repair only to the extent of countering erosion and weed infestation, and should not be hardened or upgraded.

6.3 Existing tracks in wilderness, if little used, should be allowed to revegetate naturally.

6.4 Former roads (or "tracks" or "trails") used for walking in wilderness should be allowed, or assisted if necessary, to contract by revegetation to walking track width (approx. 500mm), or to contract out of existence if virtually unused.

7. Trackless walking

Groups walking off tracks in national parks or declared wilderness should be mindful of the sensitivity of the natural environment, and limit their numbers to avoid creating tracks.

8. Long distance tracks

Long distance tracks which traverse national parks should conform to all points of NPA policy and to an existing management plan (POM), interim management guidelines (IMG), or review of environmental factors (REF).

9. Track types

9.1 The national parks system may provide for different types of track, for different purposes and in different areas.

9.2 Tracks requiring a high level of disturbance of the natural condition should constitute a small proportion of the total length of a given park's track system.

9.3 Tracks should be provided for incapacitated persons where appropriate.

10. Construction

10.1 The environmental impact of a track, including its visual or aesthetic impact, should be minimised, initially by adequate planning and later by careful and skilful location and construction, with special attention to drainage and to the nature of the environment and the setting.

10.2 Tracks should be so designed and constructed as to resist erosion and generally require minimum maintenance.

10.3 Special provision, such as steps, boardwalks and snowpoles, should be installed only if provided for in the management plan.

10.4 Where track markers are provided, they should comply with Australian Standard AS 2156.

11. Maintenance

Approved tracks should be maintained, and adequate resources should be provided to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for this purpose.

12. Closure

Management plans should include the option of closing any track, either temporarily or permanently, at managerial discretion.

13. Guidelines

13.1 A set of guidelines for the planning, design and construction of tracks of different types should be available to region, area and operations managers.

13.2 The guidelines should accord with, and expand upon, Clauses 3, 5, 9 and 10 of this (the NPA) policy.

Adopted by State Council September 1987
Amended by State Council May 1999


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