Government 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 ventures1, 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 are well established and 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 Pastoral Act needs updating to allow for more flexible uses, including tourism and energy production, as well as the current need for cultural sensitivities, or mining activities, we’re concerned that access for recreational bushwalking may become restricted in these lands outside those limited, defined areas.

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 access 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 (or easier: read this version with the relevant sections highlighted):

  • 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: 5.00pm Friday 13 September 2019
Update 11 September: the Closing Date has been extended and is now 5pm Monday 30 September 2019.

“Based on stakeholder feedback and acknowledging the challenging conditions and competing priorities many pastoralists are facing, the Minister has extended the closing date for submissions to 5pm Monday 30 September 2019.” — PIRSA


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.