Types of permits and regulations

Land used for recreation in Australia is managed by a wide variety of agencies from federal, state or local governments, to committees of management and even corporations. It is not possible to fully list the variety and complexity of outdoor recreation permits and regulations that will affect recreation users across Australia. There are some general categories of controls that land managers use to protect the areas they are responsible for, and to separate incompatible activities.

Controls on activities
Land managers use zoning or permits to allow or prohibit different types of recreation activities. For example, many national park agencies prohibit horseriding in national parks, or restrict the activity to formed vehicle tracks. Similarly, camping is usually not permitted in day-visitor areas, as the camping activity is likely to discourage day users, with tents taking up much of the available area. Off-track walking may be allowed by managers of high-use parks under a permit with strict conditions.

Rockclimbing may not be permitted where certain native species are being afforded protection (e.g. peregrine falcons), and mountain bikes are usually not permitted on walking tracks because of the damage they could cause to these narrow tracks or potential conflict with other users. Hunting is controlled by legislation and regulations under specific acts.

Other outdoor recreation activities such as paragliding, fossicking or orienteering may be permitted at defined sites or on specific dates in parks, forests and reserves suitable for these activities.

Controls within activities
Even if an activity is permitted in an area, the land manager may impose certain conditions on use that define when, how and how much of the activity is acceptable at any one time. For example, four-wheel drives and other vehicles may be prohibited on certain tracks during the wetter months of the year. For bushwalking, ‘fuel stove only’ areas are being introduced where open fires are prohibited; and restrictions on the size of groups permitted to use a particular site or area are becoming more common.

These activity conditions on use are designed to protect the environmental values of natural areas and the enjoyment of outdoor recreation activities themselves. As the number of outdoor recreation users grows, we can expect additional controls and conditions on activities.