Access & regulatory issues affecting the ability to bushwalk in Western Australia

Most of us just want to enjoy a good bushwalk free of unnecessary restrictions on access. Increasing regulatory and other pressures are making that more difficult. The Club can help counter these challenges by taking an active interest in issues that may impact upon bushwalking activities and our ability to operate effectively as a bushwalking club into the future. 
 
Bauxite mining 1The Club largely looks to Bushwalking WA (BWA; formerly known as the Federation of Western Australian Bushwalkers) as the peak body for bushwalking in the State to take the leadership of the broader issues as one of their key functions. As the largest bushwalking club in the State our club must maintain a close dialogue with BWA so they are fully appraised of the Club's views and alerted to any new issues that could impact on bushwalking within the State.  
 
Important ongoing issues that pose threats to our continuing access to, and/or enjoyment of, our traditional bushwalking environment within the State include:  
The Club has made a strong contribution on those particular issues in recent years, partly through BWA. Examples of other issues in which the Club has taken a keen interest and/or has taken action to the potential benefit of our members include the following:
 
  • Restrictions due to public liability issues

Land managers are increasingly averse to the risk of exposing their visitors to injury due to inadequate skills, fitness and/or competence, and the consequent exposure of operating staff to danger in effecting a rescue. Their response has been to close access to some areas and to push for a requirement for formal leader qualifications or certification. The latter response may be appropriate in the case of commercial operations where typically there is one experienced leader and a number of inexperienced  dependent participants, and  where the number of participants is a commercial issue. But it is not appropriate for bushwalking clubs where the participants are  invariably non-dependent and group sizes are more manageable.

  • Topographic map quality 

Recent maps 'printed-on-demand' by DPAW off digital databases emphasise ownership or management of lands; They are less readable and often fail to show old tracks that were included on earlier forestry maps. These modern maps are much less useful for bushwalkers; Whether due to an oversight or by intention, they do not adequately assist in encouraging public access to the areas we walk, and they make traditional map-reading and navigation within our walk areas more difficult.

  • Access to 'tracks' (or, When is a 'track' not a 'track'?)

Much of the public's increasing participation in  bushwalking is on trails like the excellent Cape to Cape and Bibbulmun Tracks. This is good for bushwalking and good for the community; and many people who hitherto haven’t been able to, have discovered the delights of bushwalking. But apart from these well formed, established trails, the Australian Standard for trails (AS2156 - 2001) also recognises unmarked walk routes across substantially unmodified terrain as a class of walking 'track' (Classes 5 and 6). These routes will be used by smaller numbers of bushwalkers, so there is usually little evidence to land managers of their usage. Because they can't see conventional worn tracks and may be unaware of the walking routes, land managers may inadvertently exclude walkers from using them; for example by closing secure parking areas; by allowing water sources to fall into disuse; by closing access roads; by failing to conduct timely hazard reduction burns; or even by allocating the land to some other use.

  • Insurance issues

No Club should conduct activities without adequate insurance cover. The Club has insurances arranged on its behalf via Bushwalking Australia. Insurance providers are always interested in minimising the risk to which they are exposed. They increasingly insist that Clubs adequately manage risk and inform them of what they are actively doing with regards to risk management and mitigation. The risk management policy and procedures that the Club has in place and periodically reviews are an important part of ensuring the Club maintains its access to suitable insurance cover. 

  • Recreational hunting on public lands
Hunting on public lands courtesy Cathy WilcoxA parliamentary inquiry in 2014 considered whether regulated recreational hunting could be allowed on public lands in W.A. Hunting has a potential environmental contribution in controlling feral or pest animals. In the Club's submission to the inquiry we objected - along with numerous others - to any move to open up our National Parks, State Forests and other public lands to recreational shooting. The inquiry Committee recommended in its March 2015 report that the Government introduce a two-year trial of recreational hunting on public land in Western Australia. In June 2015 that recommendation was rejected by the W.A. Government. This was a good outcome for bushwalkers and others; Our concerns have been recognised and we can continue to access the State's southwest forests and other public lands without fearing for our safety.
 (cartoon by Cathy Wilcox)