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CROWN LAND in NSW - no longer accessible without Permission (2022)

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CROWN LAND in NSW - no longer accessible without Permission (2022) Empty CROWN LAND in NSW - no longer accessible without Permission (2022)

Post  nero_design Sat Feb 19, 2022 8:23 pm

New Changes to accessing Crown Land for fossicking/prospecting in NSW - 2021 onwards

"Crown land is land that is owned and managed by the NSW Government. It accounts for approximately half of all land in New South Wales and carries special provisions." (- NSWIRS)

Some of you will no doubt be aware of this by now as there was some discussion on the subject on other forums when the first Caution Signs were erected at Tambaroora (Hill End gold district) in January 2021.  NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service) handles 20m of the track at Tambaroora before it is split between the larger (yet shrinking) 'Common' and a significant section of designated 'Unmanaged Crown Land'.  It gets a bit confusing for visitors to Hill End in particular because the zones are varied and their sizes change.  There's also a number of Historic Areas that can't be fossicked on.  Previously this was just the triangular Township area but in more recent years appears to have expanded into fragments of The Common and into the Southern areas of Golden Gully.  There's now Unmanaged Crown Land and a variety of old and new private leases and even plots of private property that dot The Common and the Unmanaged Crown Land.  To make matters even more complicated, NPWS, Crown Lands and even property boundary maps supplied to members by NAPFA appear to vary in consideration to borders and accuracy. I can't say for certain which are the most or least accurate.

CROWN LAND in NSW - no longer accessible without Permission (2022) Fossic10
An extract from the NSW Fossicking Guide.  This was allegedly published in 2010. I'm fairly sure it was published publicly in 2019.

CROWN LAND in NSW - no longer accessible without Permission (2022) Fossic11
What's allowed and what's not - in NSW when fossicking on Crown Land. (NSW FOSSICKING GUIDE in PDF format)

I discovered yesterday that as of last year (2021) - new changes and regulations have been applied to prospectors wishing to fossick for gold on Crown Land and that this is now applicable Statewide.  People can no longer legally fossick on Crown Land without written authorization obtained in advance and IN WRITING from Crown Land Management (...or from a landholder, if the Crown Land has been leased to a landholder).  If people intending to fossick are from different households, each must apply separately.  It would appear that fossickers and prospectors are now lumped together as a single entity. The process of applying takes at least 7 days at present - in identifying the DP lots, in applying and signing the documents, having them approved and counter-signed by Crown Lands Management, and then returning copies to the fossicker.  Any approval is ONLY for the lots identified and then requested and then grantes. So it's up to the fossicker to identify the DP Lot Numbers involved and to list those on the request.  Simply asking to access a block of Crown Land in a specific district is not enough. In the past, access to Crown Land was virtually a right, unless the government had allowed a local farmer use of the parcel of land on a temporary arrangement or had sold the lot outright. Another exception often touted was Crown Land subject to Native Title.  Some areas (like Dark Corner, NSW) are simply no longer available to the public at all due to Pastoral Leases occupying the Crown Land there.

CROWN LAND in NSW - no longer accessible without Permission (2022) Img_0513
An example of Geological instability at Tambaroora (Hill End), Golden Gully - 2017

I was on my way to Hill End yesterday, at the request of two friends who wanted to visit at very short notice. When I checked online during my in-transit breakfast, I discovered the now-infamous incident that occurred recently - which has since triggered an ENORMOUS change to rules.  It is alleged that in 2020(?), a vehicle turned up at the access crossing at the Tambaroora creek crossing ...and proceeded to excavate the soil there at the crossing - which was then taken away and presumably processed for gold by persons unknown.  The damage to the crossing was said to be extensive. Another report of three men arriving nearby with a large truck-towed Trommel to process dirt there have also surfaced, but this was not raised during my conversation with Crown Lands management.  Since this track is used by residents nearby and is required by tourists wishing to access the panning area, the gears of the legal community and local NPWS began to grind.  There was some indications that the NAPFA group (who have been remarkably silent on this issue) claimed some lack of communication between involved parties and government occurred, if I could put it delicately.  Another interpretation of events implies that these new regulations were slipped through and that the relevant ministers said one thing but did another.  The result now is that signs have since been posted with warnings not to fossick on the Crown Land without authorization.  Access to The Common is still allowed although this location is dotted with private claims and private land now and does present something of a continual legal minefield for those who wish to try their luck.

The far-reaching consequences are as follows:  You can no longer enter Crown Land anywhere in NSW for fossicking without written permission and it is now an offense to do so.  In addition, the new 2021 Fossicking Regulations now extend from those that applied to NSW State Forests to all other parts of the state, including Crown Land.  Previously, the restrictions that applied to State Forests did not apply universally elsewhere. These regulations include the prohibition and use of Powered equipment etc.

Access to State Forests in NSW remains unchanged and the usual permit system is still in place.

As for Hill End, the popular area of Golden Gully (which runs through the Crown Land designated zone AND overlaps the NPWS zone near "The Arch", some of which is a designated a protected Historical Zone) is now a no-go zone.  Offenders are liable to prosecution, penalties, fines and other costs unless they have sought and gained written permission in advance.  Some areas will still not be available.   Note that Golden Gully has been closed since December 2021 due to "Geological Instability" and is currently managed by NPWS.  I was also told that just because someone applies for permission to access a parcel of Crown Land, it does not mean it will be automatically granted.  This regulation is only relatively new and appears to have been introduced during last year's lockdown.  I personally spoke with two different departments at Crown Land Management who were very helpful in explaining what has changed and why.  I was also made aware that accessing the river at the Turon (even in the area around Cole's Bridge) requires permission from the landowners there who have been given authority to use the Crown Land.  Due to privacy regulations they will not furnish the landowner's contact details to an applicant as it's up to individuals to locate and contact the landowners on site before requesting permission (which knowing some of the landowners there, is not likely to be forthcoming for most applicants).  I asked about a section of the Turon River bordered by council owned/managed land (with a carpark) and Crown Land on the opposite side - and was told that the Crown Land there was already leased to another landholder and any request to access the riverbed for fossicking would now require any prospective fossicker or prospector to contact the appropriate landholder there for permission.  This rule was not in effect prior to early 2021.

CROWN LAND in NSW - no longer accessible without Permission (2022) Img_8213
Sunny Corner State Forest yesterday

So for the day, without lawful access to Crown Land any more, I visited an area of the Sunny Corner State Forest where I have previously enjoyed some quiet time detecting and panning and had to renew and print my permit before arrival.  I found many of the riverbanks undercut by recent fossickers (which is illegal) - although some of this was old and some was natural water-worn erosion...  with VAST areas of the creek dug away and fuel from powered sluices (which are now expressly illegal) poured freshly into the dug holes. Most of the digging was quite recent and mountains of sluice tailings were piled up along the creek.  Speaking to one of several forestry rangers who passed by, they were considering closing the creeks down due to "safety issues" and were putting up large yellow warning signs in the area.  Our interpretation was that these signs may also relate to tree-felling operations in the area that were unrelated to forestry harvesting.  Rubbish/Trash and other recently discarded equipment was deliberately stuck to tree branches or left lying on the ground.  Having been there numerous times in the past 15 years I was surprised at the levels of recent trash and used toilet paper dotting the creek banks.  it's a bit of a shame.  The department of Crown Lands management agreed with me that the new Permit system for accessing Crown Land for fossicking would enable them to more effectively monitor (and perhaps even assign blame if necessary) when unlawful activity (including the use of powered equipment and the dumping of rubbish) occurred.  

CROWN LAND in NSW - no longer accessible without Permission (2022) Screen43
It doesn't stop at Crown Land or State Forest zones....

Everything used to stand UNDER the dominant Mining Act of 1992 (which expressly allowed the use of a powered sluice) but those regulations have since been eroded.  The text in the JPEG above shows there's a number of other regulations that apply, even if you've sought approval to fossick on Crown Land.

Other areas that have long been the source of interest for fossicking and prospecting clubs (such as Stuart Town and Oallen Ford) have also seen the arrival of signage from Crown Lands warning against access for fossicking.  It would appear that the (assumed protected) right to prospect has possibly reached its final limitations.  I phoned a local prospecting supply store to see if they had any information to add and was told that they were aware of "certain recent changes" and seemed unimpressed with the new situation.  

If anyone knows more, this might be the place for discussion.
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Post  moredeep Sat Feb 19, 2022 10:21 pm

Great write up nero I wish it were fiction though Sad
It's totally bizarre that crown land is a no go area Question Question Question

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Post  soldier of fortune Sat Feb 19, 2022 10:43 pm

That`s pretty full on Nero. Where the hell do NSW prospectors go from here ? Sounds like bureaucracy gone mad. So unfair locking out prospectors like that. More of our freedoms diminishing before our eyes. I can see some landholders making a business out of this by allowing prospectors on their land for a price like they do with hunters. That would be the only way around it without all the hassles and red tape. This is just so wrong. Thanks for the write up Nero and all the best to all the prospectors in NSW. I can feel your pain.

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Post  nero_design Sun Feb 20, 2022 2:46 am

I think it's both terribly sad and perhaps inevitable that this has happened. We don't know what other incidents have occurred that may have contributed to the decision.

When I say 'inevitable', I do so in reference to 'liability'. Crown Land in the past was something of a relic from the days of old. There wasn't a lot of regulation going on with it. Even the name harks back to the Crown of England, who laid claim to this land. The government has been shaving off parcels and handing them out to NPWS or granting them to Pastoral owners with adjacent properties in recent years. There's even provisions for them to sell off parcels. With Australian laws and legislation constantly updating to cover people and companies for legal liability, and with folks using Crown Land to dump dead animals and rubbish or simply digging the place up looking for bushrock, timber or minerals, I'd say it was perhaps only a matter of time before someone in the government was asked to step in and Regulate the Crown Land in the state. Imagine trying to pinch Bush Rock and Plants from a National Park? They'd come after you (and have actually crushed a number of Gold Prospectors in National Parks like Kiandra for doing this) because the legislation and regulations now exist that allow them to bring the full weight of the law on folks breaking it.

And sadly it was apparently a few fools with a truck or a ute near Hill End that triggered changes with Crown Land regulations, all by digging up a popular tourist location looking for gold a couple of years ago. Unfortunately they used an access point that is maintained by NPWS (I think they even maintain the crossing) and I'm going to take a wild guess here, but since NPWS have been keen to gain access to this section of land for years, this was just the right excuse to trigger a motion that affects every single lot of Crown Land in the state with Blanket Laws and Regulations.

I suspect it can't be reversed and may even mutate in future years to become something altogether different. I also think it's terribly sad and that world feels a little bit smaller as a result of this. No idea how the old timers with no internet access will handle this. That might be the cause of some of the recent signs that were put up last year.
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Post  mbasko Sun Feb 20, 2022 9:46 pm

Not a new issue & some discussion here:
Crown Land Signage
Tambaroora Signage

Issues first arose when the NSW Regulator released their new NSW Fossicking Guidelines & changed the wording around NSW Crown Land access requirements. Prior NSW Crown Lands were happy to allow access to unmanaged land without formal permission (& the previous NSW Fossicking Guideline reflected that). We've always been required to have permission to access managed NSW Crown Lands such as NSW State Forests, TSR's, Commons etc. or NSW Crown Land under lease. Mostly that was provided via permits or blanket fossicking approval such as that given for Hill End Tambaroora Common. NSW Crown Land under lease has always been treated the same as private land requiring lease/landholder permission.
NSW Crown Lands are now following the new wording in the NSW Fossicking Guideline which says we need permission for all crown land.
The "incident" & then signage at Tambaroora
appears to have been a convenient time to start the changes as per the new wording.
NAPFA members did receive info about it all & last I had heard was NSW Crown Lands were working on a streamlined access/permit system but obviously that hasn't occured yet.
I have several NSW Crown Land permits in place, including the Tambaroora areas, that will be due for the annual renewal soon so was hoping something better would be in place.
The worst part of it all is that those of us that go to the trouble of doing the right thing are the ones penalised & inconvenienced. Those that don't just continue as normal spoiling it for the rest. It won't solve any of the issues on public land at all.

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Post  Reg Wilson Sun Feb 20, 2022 10:47 pm

How can this be happening in NSW the epitome of righteousness and political perfection. The gleaming light of personal freedom, the realm of the free, and the home of all those superior to us 'Mexicans'.
Must be some mistake. How can a state that has such champions of the individual such as Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and other ultra right champions of justice allow this to happen? 'Gladys the glorious' and now 'Dom the anointed' surely cannot be in favour of this dictatorial locking up of land. Leasing Crown land to the 'squattocracy'? The same government that stated that the purchase of land at Badgerys's creek for 30 million dollars was a bargain even though independent valuations were a mere 3 million dollars.
I feel sorry for the poor prospector who lives in Australia's most corrupt state who now has been locked out of country that they should have legal right to.
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