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Battle looming over re-opening Tasmanian 4WD tracks

North-West tasmanian 4WD tracks
North-West tasmanian 4WD tracks

There is a fight looming over some closed Tasmanian 4WD tracks, with two sides unable to come to an agreement over what kind of access 4WDers should have to a certain stretch of coastline. Some say there should be controlled 4WD access, and others say there shouldn’t be any at all.

The battleground is in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area, a huge area of wild, rugged country in Tasmania’s north-west. It’s name comes from the Arthur and Pieman Rivers, which both spring from the Central Highlands of Tasmania, and run down into the raging southern stretches of the Indian Ocean.

Tasmania’s West Coast is a great spot for 4WDing, touring and camping, with tonnes of history, not much development and lots of bush. But, like so many other spots around Australia, it has had it’s access limited in the name of conservation.

Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area 4WD tracks might be re-opening in the future.
Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area 4WD tracks might be re-opening in the future.

Currently, Tasmania’s state government wants to re-open parts of the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area back up to 4WDers, with more strict management and limitations than previously fostered. The area under question runs along the coastline, between Sandy Cape and the mouth of the Pieman River.

The area has been closed off from vehicle access since 2012. In an article published by the ABC, reporter Natalie Whiting takes a 50-minute boat ride and hour-long walk to access some more remote parts of the area, which were previously accessible by 4WD.

Tasmania’s Aboriginal history is what’s being threatened by 4WD access, and the reason why they have been limited access. There area middens, hut depressions and burial sites throughout the area, which are a direct link to Tasmania’s long pre-colonial history. Three years ago, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Council (TAC) halted plans to re-open the area by taking their cause to the Federal Court.

4WD Tasmania fighting for controlled, managed 4WD Acess.

Some aboriginal and environmental groups see the only way to preserve the area from damage is completely banning 4WD access altogether, something which 4WD Tasmania disputes.

Along with the heritage and history, the beauty and remoteness of the Tassie West Coast is the big drawcard for 4WDers.
Along with the heritage and history, the beauty and remoteness of the Tassie West Coast is the big drawcard for 4WDers.

Instead, they are looking to re-instate access to the area with a proper management plan to preserve the heritage of the area. This is echoed by the Tasmaniam Government, with the Tasmanian Environment and Heritage Minister saying ” I think there is a community interest in allowing sensible and balanced recreational access to these areas. But we need to do it in a way which is genuinely protecting natural and cultural values.”

What can you do to help?

If you think there should be a controlled, managed 4X4 access to this part of Tasmania, get in touch with the local politicians and let them know your thoughts.

As a 4WDer, it’s really important we all put our best foot forward. Don’t go where you’re not allowed, don’t tear up the tracks, and leave places with zero rubbish left behind. If you want to go and be a high-revving hero with more wheel spin than Gary Myers, publicly accessible land is not the place to do it!

The fact of the matter is that there is a small section of the 4X4 community out there that is ruining it for everyone. If you see someone out there doing the wrong thing, dob them in.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

33 Comments

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  • Its not about Culture, or preservation its about money and Control, be careful what you wish for, an example is Stockton Sand Dunes and the joke this has become. Now we have a fleet, of 30 seat 4WD Buses trampling all over it, sacred sites and all, and guess where the money is going ????

  • get yourself a copy of the latest 4wd action video West Coast Tassie.

    great hd tv with driving that only supports those who want to close these amazing places.

    complete and no regard for the tracks when they pick the biggest hole instead of the clear track that goes around it. WTF this is exactly whey the tracks are being closed off.

    rip up the tracks, make a few dvds and stuff it for everyone. good on you.

  • We all need to look after our bush in Tassie .We took our kids out and showed them how too look after our bush .all our kids love going 4×4 driving .Now we take our grandkids and that love it two so it would be so sad to lose the things we love so please every one look after our bush.

  • I am an avid 4wder and have been for the last 30 yrs i am all for accessing these remote hard to get to places after all thats why we own 4wds these sensitive ares need fencing off and clear signage erected to explain the significance of the areas but in the end the city dwellers who will never visit these areas or ever leave the comfort of there latte sipping lifestyle make the decisions for the rest of us who enjoy a lifestyle they will never get to appreciate or understand i just feel sorry for their one sided point of view because in the end it will be my children and grandchildren that will suffer from being denied access to a part of tassie that is owned by all tasmanians

  • looks like a small percentage of the indigenous people have discovered beurocracy while the localised kooris are ignored,i think the minority causing the problem are in the city with their heads in the cupboard living like the white man they say is no good,im not critisizing aboriginals ,just pointing out beurocrats spoil it for all,

  • I have also heard that the local Indigenous people are in favour of controlled access, and I think they should have much more say in the decision than the TAC (as it is not originally TAC members land, or at least majority of TAC members, or the greens for that matter). That part of Tassie’s west coast is spectacular, I was fortunate enough to travel it many years ago. There is already a fee paying permit system in place to visit Sandy Cape, as far as I know, and an extension of that could help pay for required signage, fencing etc. I think many of us would be interested in interpretive signage to show some interesting history, how people survived in this rugged area many years ago. Make the fees a bit (not too much) dearer to do the extra bit, monitor and police access, and the undesirables should avoid the area. The technology is available today to monitor the area effectively……
    Oh and maybe have significantly reduced fees for those that want to walk in.

  • I think everyone should be able to access this beautiful place my family has been going to this area for generations my grandfather my father me and my sons all love and respect this beautiful place why lock it all up so no one can go if you let us use it we will all look after it lock it up and people will destroy things to get there and half the damage done down there is from the over population of the wild life like eating the grass down to sand then the wind blows the sand and creates a wind blown soft sand spot let’s no be silly and really look at what’s happening not what the do gooders say is going on

  • I would like to drive in like most 4wd adventurers would, but I am willing to walk in with my backpack or get on a boat for the sake of preserving the special places for everyone else and the future generations. These places are too precious to be ruined. As someone has already mentioned, it does not take many irresponsible 4Wd drivers to ruin such sensitive and pristine area.
    Imagine if decades earlier people in their 4WDs could access areas where remnant of Wollemi Pines have managed to survive. Do we think that they would still be around today?
    Anyone who has been driving in Tasmania would know the staggering number of wildlife killed littered Tasmania roads. I would rather get off my 4WD and walk in to see living animals than seeing more dead animals through the windscreen of my vehicle.
    We must remember that there is not a single aborigine of solely Tasmanian aboriginal descent left today. Their preserved cultures and artifacts are the only things that are remained of a once thriving inhabitants in the island. The Tasmanian Aboriginal Council does not want to stop us from enjoying this beautiful part of the island. They only plea us to keep our 4WDs out from their sacred sites. Given what European settlement has done to them, the least we can do now is to respect their wish.
    Since we cannot stop the small minority of irresponsible drivers destroying places where ever they gain access to, it is in the best interest for all to keep these places off limit to 4WDs

  • Being a member of a very reputable club we do a lot to promote the care of the environment. If we all get together to promote the care of the land we are priveledged to travel, access should not be an issue. Let’s operate the same way it is done in the NT. Permits granted so follow up can be made & Rangers / Police can check. I say yes to access this beautiful country we have but do it the responsible way.

  • I am a mostly main land 4×4 off roader . I have been to Tassie a couple of times but did not get to that area. Like all these sorts of areas limited access with a permit is the way to go . User pays. These areas cost to maintain so a small fee I think is the way to go.
    I use the Great sandy area of SEQld and we pay and I agree with it.

  • I believe that this could be a great opportunity for indigenous people to share their culture and their stories with the wider population. If you want to go in to this area you must hire a local guide from the aboriginal community. They would be able to preserve their spiritual and culturally sensitive sites they could make sure that you don’t camp in an area that is disrespectful to their culture and by having a guide to show you what’s what we can start to put reconciliation in to action, giving people a new understanding of the first Australians culture.

  • Its our land!!!! campers, family events, out door activities are as Aussie as the meat pie, there are always people that do the wrong thing but I for 1 am tiered of being the one that misses out and think that the majority rules, stop letting the minority rule.
    Pay $200 per year for access the funds can go back into maintaining the area and have it open to all 4×4.

  • I support opening of these tracks. The issue is always going to be the (minority) of idiots who wreck it for the rest of us by tearing up the tracks, making their own tracks and / or leaving their rubbish on the ground.
    I am a regular on the west coast and look after the area removing rubbish left behind. Find a way to control the idiots in the area and we can all enjoy it.

  • I say reopen tracks, let everybody appreciate the rugged beauty of our gorgeous West Coast, my father has had a shack at the Arthur River for almost 50 years and i have spent all my 47 years spending holidays down there. Now my adult children are doing the same, the trouble is a fewfly bynighter visitors ruin it for everyone as normal, us regulars have the utmost respect for the region. Why should we all be punished by a few stupid idiots who choose to do the wrong thing, punish them not us!! And after all Tassie belongs to all of us not just some!!

  • Perhaps make them pay…..use the funds for maintanence and management. You then know exactly who is doing what. This is what happens in National Parks…..fees and registration are standard.

  • I own a 4WD and use it on both the blacktop and offroad.

    In the case the Arthur-Pieman Reserve, NO WAY should this reserve be (re)opened to any vehicles.

    If I want access, I’ll walk in or (as the ABC journo did) take a boat.

    I recently visited the area and it is obvious even to Blind Freddy why the area id closed.

    Aside from the very real issue of (being trapped by) wildfire, it is one of the very few wold places left on this (overcrowded) planet.

    Let’s not follow the lead of those gas-guzzling arrogant’s (on the continent to our north-east) who believe that taking control of a machine means it becomes a right to use.

    Sometimes we 4WD’ers ought get out of the driver’s seat and leg it to those special places. This reserve is a classic example.

  • I fully suport the reopening of the track south to the Pieman. It should be classed as a stock route as cattle used to be driven from Circular Head to Zeehan in the early days. Yes the more people that use it the more it will be eroded. Then track maintenance will kick in and we will then have a track upgraded such as what has been done with the Temma to Sandy Cape. When I first went down there it was a mission in the first 1/2 K from Temma. Now it is a solid base gentle cruise through to the Sandy Cape beach. Then more people with there Toorack tractors will be able to visit this beautiful fantastic part of the wild west than just those with the high lift big tyres.
    Take the telegraph track at Cape York. The only restriction is you and your vehicles ability.
    I have been there numerous times and love the area. But progress is progress. If we did not have progress we would still using horses and cariages on dusty muddy rutted tracks instead of our multilane sealed highways.
    Responsible use is always the way to go, irrispective of the track condition. Drive accordingly.

  • I am strongly in favour of controlled access. Why can’t we have a system where 4X4 drivers and campers can report the rego of these morons that don’t follow rules/protocol, behave badly, leave rubbish behind and give the rest of us responsible off-roaders a bad name.

    The reports could be made online or via a nominated telephone number to the state authority e.g. 4WD Queensland, the state department of national parks and/or the state police.

    A similar system is used in the UAE to report bad driving. Once a couple of reports have been received for the same vehicle, the police investigate. A national and/or state register could be used to record repeat offenders so that they can be denied access to controlled beaches, camping grounds and wilderness areas.

  • The Local Aboriginal people, The Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation want to allow access to the area but the Tasmanian Aboriginal organisation in Hobart, (Noel Pearsons Mob) don’t recognise the Local Group.
    This is a farcical situation.
    I support the opening of the tracks as it will enable the Peerapper people to display their heritage and promote a greater understanding of their unique culture.

  • Yes controlled access is required in these places as long as in is reasonable and yes is only a few that stuff it up for the rest as usual.

  • No, it’s not the “irresponsible minority”, it’s a large percentage of 4WD’ers who act stupidly. I grew up in the country and I know of numerous tracks, including in the Little Desert, that have been wrecked by city-based fantasists once they discovered them. Wildly overloaded, jacked up 4WDs with bullbars and huge tyres, none of which are actually used by people who are from the country or actually make their living outdoors – let me know the next time you see a Parks ranger or farmer on a 150cm body lift and 37 inch tyres.

    BTW, these tracks in Tasmania are currently closed, but while the ABC were filming they were passed by idiots on quad bikes – unregistered, unlicensed and which can’t be used other than on private property.

  • Hi am just thinking if you are going to open up these areas to 4wd then there 4wds should be compliant as the amount of 4wds in Tassie with unbelievable wide tyres is ridiculous and I don’t think the authoritys or tyre places care the amount of these new Ford rangers with wide tyres getting around is crazy so if you open up these areas these are the type of people who will destroy it!

  • I live in the bush and have a 4wd to get around, but never use it off formed roads and tracks. Why?, because of the damage done by 4 wheels under 3 ton vehicle. It takes a few seconds to drive over the sensitive soil, but it takes decades for that soil to recover. Whilst most responsible drivers do what I do, I learned from experience that it takes only one ignorant driver to cause damage that takes years to recover. Moreover, after that first ignoramus has gone through, somehow there are other equally stupid ignoramus who come out of the woodwork and feel the urge to follow where the first one went.

    So as far as I am concerned, keep sensitive areas closed. I can’t think of any sensitive area that is better off since 4wd vehicles were allowed in.

  • I am of aboriganal descent and going into the Arthur Pieman protected area for the last 50 years. Tracks should be opened for recreational purposes. Many years ago the Lands Department fenced off Aboriganal middens and rock carvings. If more of these areas identified just fenced them off. Open it back up and manage it.

  • Perhaps just allow 4wds that are club members with a roster for access to just a hand full of vehicles at any given time with carefully planned and fair restrictions and good weather conditions.

  • Conseration of any area, animal or fauna is ONLY effective if there is a profit to be made by somebody long term. The best way to conserve a species of animal is to make it farmed – for profit. The best way to save a tree (Wollamai Pine comes to mind) is to sell it in nurseries – for profit.
    The best way to conserve an area is to make it sable rather than let it rot into nothing like the greenies would have us do. Even hundreds of years ago the native Australians used land management practices to maintain this country. Ignoring it, cutting it off from people all together and letting it go to rot is NOT how nature needs to be managed. By all means limit use by 4WD enthusiasts but seriously…cutting out 4WDrivers ony means that areas that are showing signs of demise by neglect will be beyond help because no 4WD went past and reported the problem…

  • This is not just limited to Tassie but it should apply across the whole of Australia. It is becoming an issue everywhere. Irresponsible users of these areas ruin it for others. I have observed that the increased use of camper trailers in these remote and pristine areas has contributed to the damage. I call for a ban on towing in many of these areas unless it is a clay based or bitumen road. I know this will attract negative feedback but when you see a party driving up and backing down dunes repeatedly and backing off the track to get a run up, then when they realise they cant make it move down the swale to find an easier spot to cross you will agree controls need to be in place.”PROTECT AUSTRALIA BAN CAMPER TRAILERS”

  • We are always saying that its the minority ruining it for everyone but in truth over the last 10 to 15 years its been closer to 25% to 30% are idiots with no regard for others or nature. I think we have proven that our community can’t be trusted with public access to land.
    “if you want to go and be a high-revving hero with more wheel spin than Gary Myers, publicly accessible land is not the place to do it!” But that’s where our community chooses to do it, I don’t it should be re-opened, you know it will just be ruined forever then

  • I support the re-opening of these tracks with restrictions on where users may travel.
    May I also suggest that the controlling agency for the area installs solar powered cameras to record the registration numbers of vehicles used to access the area. That would reduce the number of drivers needing to be interviewed to determine who, if anyone, has disobeyed the rules.
    Perhaps also, fencing the Heritage areas off so vehicles may not be used to access the sites thereby potentially reducing any damage to the sites which I feel are of critical importance & all reasonable measures taken to protect them.

  • I agree with allowing access to this area, it can be done sensibly, with proper interpretive signage at places of significance along the track, low cost fencing around sites such as middens, and fines for people doing the wrong thing, then surely all would benefit.
    If you want to keep these tracks open consider joining the West Coast Recreation Association (WCRA) located in Straghan West Coast Tasmania $5 annual membership.
    The more members, the more lobbying power to re-open these tracks.

  • I support Limited opening of these tracks. The issue is always going to be the (minority) of idiots who wreck it for the rest of us by tearing up the tracks, making their own tracks and / or leaving their rubbish on the ground. It would be a great day for 4WDers if we can eradicate that element to hopefully give all stake-holders confidence in our activities and work closer with us. This utopia could lead to many more people being able to experience & enjoy much more of our great country.

  • I support limited opening of these tracks with stricter controls of their use ! This area was always accessible for fishing and camping and was very popular over the Christmas and Easter holidays.Over time some irresponsible users have caused damage when driving off the tracks which has also resulted in erosion . These tracks were not clearly marked back then so each user took what they deemed the easiest route! This area is also prone to having debris washed up from the Indian Ocean I can remember one trip in the early 80s bringing back a full 6×4 trailer of fishing ropes, bouys , plastic containers, large glass globes (used on the squid boats ) and plenty of other rubbish not sure who cleans this up now ! It is up to each and every user to respect the regulations if these areas are to remain accessible!

  • I support controlled opening of these tracks. We did the west coast of Tassie to Sandy Cape in 2010. There are plenty of regular tracks. Responsible 4WD’ers keep to these tracks and maintain accessibility which is needed during times of natural disasters.

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