Geocaching NSW recently began negotiations with NSW Parks and Wildlife Service regarding the current ban of geocaching on their managed land.
Since our initial meeting in January 2009, there have been some developments.
The good news is that the Executive Director of NPWS has agreed to a review of the geocaching policy, which may result in some changes.
NPWS have informed us that the next step will be a meeting of the Policy Reference Group, who are responsible for any changes to NPWS policy. The timing of this is yet to be determined, but is expected to occur in the next month.
At this stage, NPWS are unable to provide any indication of what possible restrictions (i.e. form of regulation) might be imposed if the ban is to be reversed, but will keep us informed.
We have also received clarification of NPWS stance on virtuals, EarthCaches and waypoints for multis on NPWS managed land.
Their response is:
“a geocaching activity that does not leave any object in the park is not geocaching as we defined it when we banned it.
So, a multi-stage geocache that involved reading a sign in a park to discover a cache outside the park is not, in my opinion, an activity which is covered by the ban.
Similarly, I have advised one of our field staff that a virtual cache [including EarthCache] was, in my opinion, also not covered by the ban.”
This would mean that geocachers may began a multi-cache in a NSW Park, as long as nothing is left, modified or damaged inside the park and the container is outside the park’s boundaries.
EarthCaches still require land owner approval (as per EarthCahing guidelines), and this should be sought from the ranger of the relevant National Park.
Please note this ‘ruling’ is in regards to the current policy and could change if a new policy is adopted. However, it is our opinion that any changes that may occur under a new policy would be positive.
Some of you will be aware that in recent weeks a number of geocaches have been retrieved from NSW National Parks. Two were found by staff at Royal NP and are awaiting collection from the ranger. Another was also recently removed from Kosciuszko NP due to concerns over safety and heritage value – that cache is being sent back to the owner.
While these two incidents could be seen as negatives, NPWS have been prompt and open in their communication with Geocaching NSW. We have in each circumstance contacted the geocache owner immediately. It is worth noting that numerous geocaches have been removed by NPWS staff over the past seven years, and more than 500 geocaches continue to exist in NSW Parks.
In our communication with NPWS staff, we have found them to be friendly and helpful, and have used the opportunity to ‘educate’ them about our pastime.
Finally, the association is emailing a submission to NPWS regarding its 2009 draft regulation. After a thorough reading of the document, we have decided to support the inclusion of ‘containers’ in the litter definition.
While this may sound counter-productive, it is important to note that the draft regulation shows the following:
Clause 11.2 - A person does not commit an offence under this clause for anything done or omitted: (a) with the consent of a park authority and in accordance with any conditions to which the consent is subject.
This means, if permission has been sought to place a geocache (container) in a park, than it is not an offence to do so.
We are therefore using our submission as an opportunity to promote geocaching to NPWS staff and highlight its potential benefits.
Thank you to those who have provided support to the association over the past few months and we hope to provide you with further news in the near future.