Access to off-track walking may be under threat in the Flinders Ranges and beyond – Pastoral Act Review

Maybe a slightly alarmist subject line, but possibly the case. Walkers ability to access pastoral leases may change, with changes to the way pastoral leaseholders are allowed to manage the land, read on.

The info below has been provided by Walking SA, and is being sent to members of the Friends of the Heysen Trail so they have the information, and can then completed the survey if they have the interest. (many sections of the survey will not be applicable to walkers, so answer “no comment” where applicable). A thorough survey response might take 20-30mins. At the bottom of this email is a table of relevant questions from the survey. The closing date for comments has been extended to 5pm Monday 30 September 2019.

This is of keen interest to FoHT members who undertake extra-circular walks further north, and for any planned FoHT northern trips away. The Friends are with Walking SA in wanting to retain the right to walk through the pastoral country as has been our right since settlement. Sure there will likely be some areas with no, or restricted, access to allow for tourism, cultural sensitivities, or mining activities, yet this should not restrict activity outside those limited, defined areas.

Review of Pastoral Act may impact access for recreational bushwalkers in the Flinders Ranges

What is the issue?

The State Government is seeking input in order to review the Pastoral Act.

Much of the land in the Flinders Ranges north of Hawker is not private freehold land but instead is leased from the State Government to pastoralists to undertake grazing ventures[i], and recognises the rights of Aboriginal people.

As the land is leased, people can undertake recreational off-trail bushwalking in these remote locations. They must notify the lessee of their intentions to walk, and the lessee can only deny access in certain scenarios.

To clarify, by “off-trail bushwalking” we often mean following old vehicle tracks, or walking in a low impact environment, and can include camping for a few nights.

The Act also provides what are called Public Access Routes (PARs), which are often used by 4WDers for recreational use. They will likely probably remain, but our concerns are for access to other lands not part of PARs.

How could changes to Pastoral Act impact on recreational bushwalking? What are our concerns?

Currently, people intending to undertake bushwalks must notify the lessee of their intentions to walk, and the lessee can only deny access in certain scenarios. If support vehicles are to be used (or if the activity is recreational 4WDing), consent must be gained from the lessee.

Whilst we acknowledge that the Act needs updating to allow for more flexible uses, including tourism and energy production, we’re concerned that the ability to  access pastoral leases for recreational bushwalking may become restricted in these lands.

As tourism ventures are being considered to be included in the Act, this could further restrict access for recreational bushwalkers. We acknowledge that in some circumstances tourism ventures may be predicated on offering an exclusive access to experience the land, but would urge the Government to consider how this could adversely affect the ability to access pastoral leases for recreational bushwalking if it was widely implemented.

Who does this impact (in the context of undertaking recreational bushwalking)?

  1. Individuals doing self-planned self-guided bushwalking (in reality this is not individuals, but small groups of say 2-8 people)
  2. Bushwalking clubs, predominately those being Member Walking Clubs of Walking SA (the peak body for all forms of walking in South Australia), particularly those active in doing off-trail bushwalks north of Hawker, for instance Adelaide Bushwalkers, Friends of the Heysen Trail, and ARPA Bushwalkers (collective membership approx. 2,000 people) and other smaller walking clubs.

Examples of such bushwalks undertaken include:

  • Walking on the colloquially known “Beyond the Heysen”, being typically three weeks of walking from the northern trailhead of the 1,200km Heysen Trail at Parachilna Gorge to the northern extent of the Flinders Ranges at Mt Babbage or Mt Hopeless (via Narinna Pound, the Gammons, Arkaroola, and over or skirting the Mawson Plateau.)
  • Week-long trips up to the Mawson Plateau
  • Following the Flinders Ranges north of Wilpena Pound and outside of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
  • Trips around Blinman and Parachilna Gorge that might include Narinna Pound or Patawarta Hill

Why is the State Government reviewing the Pastoral Act?

Whilst the current Act deals with the pastoral industry, access and rights for Aboriginal People and mining, its scope is quite specific.

To futureproof this landscape and those that depend on it, changes are being considered to increase the flexibility for a range of uses, such as tourism and energy production.

This would allow leaseholder businesses to diversify to better manage income and risk and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. This will still need to be balanced with the necessity of maintaining the condition of the land for future generations and recognising the rights of Aboriginal people.

Where is access for bushwalkers covered in the current Pastoral Act?

You can view the current Act at

Refer in particular to pages 30 and 31:

  • Part 6—Access to pastoral land
    • Division 3—Public access
      • 48 Right to travel across and camp on pastoral land
        • (2) on foot (not in a vehicle), and camp – must provide notice to lessee
        • (3) by vehicle, and camp, by consent of the lessee
        • (4) not camp near buildings or water points
        • (5) further deals with consent for point (3) (travel by vehicle)

How to provide feedback

Closing date: 5pm Monday 30 September 2019

Feedback is being gathered via the State Government’s website:

Complete the online survey at:

You will be asked to register your name and email address to commence the survey.

You can ask questions, or perhaps send a formal letter from a body, to:
Primary Industries and Regions SA

What sections of the Feedback Questionnaire are relevant to our bushwalking interests?

The survey questions are broken down into the following areas:

Important Vision for the future of the pastoral rangelands (4 questions)
Question 1: What do you want South Australia’s rangelands to look like for future generations? refer to page 3 of survey questions PDF
Question 3: Do you think the rangelands should be used for activities in addition to pastoral purposes?
Land condition (3 questions)
Lease arrangements (2 questions)
Rights of Aboriginal people (1 question)
Consider Land use (2 questions)
[possibly] Question 12: How should mixed uses of one site be managed as there may be different land impacts? refer to page 7 of survey questions PDF
Land management (4 questions)
Important Public access (3 questions)
Question 17: Do you agree public access to the pastoral rangelands should be preserved? If so, why? refer to page 9 of survey questions PDF
Question 18: How should public access to the pastoral rangelands be managed?
Question 19: Who should be responsible for monitoring and maintaining the provision of public access?
Land access (2 questions)
Governance (2 questions)
Dog fence (1 question)
Somewhat important Assessment and compliance (3 questions)
Question 25: What assessment and compliance should be in place to manage risk? What obligations should be on different parties? refer to page 13 of survey questions PDF
Administration (2 questions)
Important Other (1 question)
We recommend using this to highlight issues for access to recreation bushwalking refer to page 15 of survey questions PDF


[1] Pastoral land in South Australia covers 410,000 square kilometres of the state, comprising 324 leases. The management, condition and use of pastoral lands is provided for in the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989 [Link to Act]