foot­loose RON MOON

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

THE crew at 4X4 have been out in the bush for the last two weeks, and along the way we came across an unat­tended camp­fire still burn­ing. We put it out and con­tin­ued, later pass­ing through ar­eas of pri­vate land that had prom­i­nent signs up warn­ing that tres­passes would be pros­e­cuted for leav­ing the pub­lic road.

It only goes to re­in­force an email I re­ceived the other week from a frus­trated mate who runs a sheep and cat­tle prop­erty in far-west NSW. He has been hav­ing more than his fair share of peo­ple do­ing the wrong thing – ei­ther un­know­ingly or, sadly, in­ten­tion­ally – while they pass through his place, re­sult­ing in busted gates, shot-up wa­ter tanks, spooked cat­tle and thirsty sheep. As a keen 4Wder and tourer, he ap­pre­ci­ates why we want to come to the out­back and visit the re­mote parts of Aus­tralia; but along with the priv­i­lege of tour­ing our vast coun­try comes some re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Here’s what he said: “When trav­el­ling in sta­tion coun­try (des­ig­nated by stock, fences, gates and wa­ter­ing points) you’re trav­el­ling on a work­ing sta­tion where stock is our liveli­hood. Please make the ef­fort to con­tact/visit the homestead if you would like to do any­thing other than pass di­rectly through, or if you have queries on road con­di­tions. It is when trav­ellers are found camp­ing, ex­plor­ing or trav­el­ling on sta­tion tracks or closed roads with­out per­mis­sion that landown­ers and man­agers can be­come grumpy.

“Leave gates as you find them. If it doesn’t look right, call in to see the sta­tion staff or at­tempt to track down some­one on the UHF ra­dio. If trav­el­ling in a group use con­voy pro­ce­dures and make sure the last through closes the gate prop­erly. We of­ten see latches that are not put back se­curely. Chil­dren need close su­per­vi­sion if tak­ing on the gate-open­ing task. We can­not stress this enough: a box-up of stock by leav­ing a gate open can in­cur very sig­nif­i­cant mus­ter­ing and han­dling costs to re­solve; while a closed gate (that should be open) can de­prive stock of ac­cess to wa­ter, re­sult­ing in many costly deaths.

“On out­back prop­er­ties there are of­ten ac­tiv­i­ties in progress that can have a ma­jor safety im­pli­ca­tion if peo­ple are camp­ing with­out per­mis­sion. For ex­am­ple, many sta­tions have ’roo shoot­ers that op­er­ate at night, there may be hunters look­ing for feral an­i­mals, and there may be mus­ter­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in progress. Do not camp with­out mak­ing an at­tempt to gain per­mis­sion from the prop­erty, and don’t camp close to wa­ter points as that will de­prive stock of ac­cess to wa­ter.

“Dogs must be on a lead at all times. Many prop­er­ties reg­u­larly bait, trap and/ or use other meth­ods for the man­age­ment of wild dogs and there can be a very real risk to any dog that is al­lowed off a lead.

“Take out any rub­bish with you and rake out fires to en­sure no cans or other de­bris is left be­hind. When you need to go to the toi­let, dig a hole and burn the pa­per be­fore fill­ing the hole in, while en­sur­ing you are well away from wa­ter­ing points and the side of the road.

“Shoot­ing and ex­plor­ing are not al­lowed un­der any cir­cum­stances with­out spe­cific per­mis­sion.

“If it hap­pens to rain and you’re leav­ing de­fined wheel marks, stop and ac­cess the dam­age. In most ar­eas roads are closed when­ever there is any amount of rain and in many cases it may just mean camp­ing overnight to let sun and wind do some dry­ing be­fore pro­ceed­ing. Again, make ev­ery at­tempt to con­tact the sta­tion to find out what con­di­tions are do­ing. We have, on oc­ca­sions, put peo­ple up in our shear­ers’ quar­ters for sev­eral days rather than make a mess of the road. Re­mem­ber, we have to travel on these roads ev­ery day.

“And you can help us by do­ing a big favour and re­port any­thing that doesn’t look right. If you sus­pect there is stock in strife or a wa­ter­ing point has stopped work­ing, please try to call in or make con­tact via the UHF. Given the dis­tances in­volved in sta­tion coun­try we of­ten only find out about is­sues af­ter it’s too late.

“As landown­ers we’re happy to pro­vide ad­vice where we can to those who travel through our ‘back­yard’, thus im­prov­ing the out­comes and ex­pe­ri­ence for us all."

What more can I say? Be a good out­back trav­eller and we’ll all be bet­ter for it.

Left: Leave gates as you find them. Right: Put out unat­tended fires, even if they aren’t yours.

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