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Draft NPWS Fossicking in parks policy

Fossicking is a recreational activity that can involve natural and cultural heritage appreciation. However, it generally involves disturbing soil, rocks and vegetation to find and remove minerals, gemstones and historical objects. It is not confined to existing tracks and trails and often occurs near waterways. Fossicking therefore poses risks to the natural and cultural values of parks.

You can comment on this policy

We are asking park visitors, fossickers and other stakeholders to have their say on fossicking in parks. Please provide comments by 13 May 2016.


Fossicking is prohibited in parks without consent. Under the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009, it is an offence to '...interfere with, dig up, cut up, collect or remove for any purpose any soil, sand, gravel, fossil, clay, rock, ochre, mineral...', or to 'dam, divert or pollute the water in any waters or water tank in a park' without consent.

Fossicking is currently permitted in two parks, with consent provided by their plans of management:

  • Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve (Grove Creek part only)
  • Torrington State Conservation Area (throughout the park).

Any consideration of additional fossicking areas will be subject to an appropriate level of environmental assessment, and must be consistent with the objects of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, the relevant management principles for the park and the relevant plan of management.


This Policy aims to:

  • guide the management of existing fossicking areas in parks
  • guide the assessment of any proposed new fossicking opportunities in parks.


Is fossicking allowed in parks?

  1. Fossicking is generally not permitted in parks because it poses risks to natural and cultural heritage. It is prohibited without consent. Consent to fossick may be considered in national parks, state conservation areas and regional parks, and associated Part 11 land. It will be subject to a park's plan of management, and an appropriate level of environmental and risk assessment.
  2. Consent to fossick will not be considered in nature reserves, historic sites, Aboriginal areas or karst conservation reserves, except as already permitted in Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve. Fossicking is not consistent with the management principles for these park categories under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act). Fossicking will not be permitted in declared wilderness areas as it is not consistent with the management principles for wilderness under the Wilderness Act 1987.
  3. Consistent with an appropriate environmental assessment, fossicking will not generally be permitted in areas significant to Aboriginal people including Aboriginal Places, in threatened ecological communities and the habitat for threatened species, in Special Catchment Areas, World Heritage Areas and Ramsar sites, Wilderness areas and in the catchments of Wild Rivers.

Where fossicking is allowed, what restrictions apply?

  1. Only the categories of fossicking defined in this Policy as detecting, panning and sluicing will be considered.
  2. Equipment must be hand held and manually operated (includes electronic hand held metal detectors). Use of any equipment other than hand-held implements will not be permitted. In particular, the following techniques and equipment will not be considered:
    • mechanical sluicing (due to the potential to disturb and remove significant quantities of the geomorphic, fluvial and/or riparian environment)
    • power-operated equipment for the purpose of surface disturbance, excavation or processing
    • explosives.
  3. The damage or removal of any bushrock will not be permitted in parks.
  4. Minimal impact guidelines in the Mining Regulation 2010 and NSW Industry and Investment's Fossicking: A guide to fossicking in NSW should also be followed.

Where fossicking is allowed, can material be removed from the park?

  1. Removal of soil, minerals, gemstones or rock may be permitted, if appropriate, under the consent. The consent must identify the substance that is permitted to be removed.
  2. However, the damage or removal of items of Aboriginal or historic heritage significance including fossils will not be permitted in parks. Removal of heritage items from parks is an offence under the NPW Act.
  3. If removal of substances is permitted under the consent, fossickers are not permitted to remove more than the prescribed amount of material from any land during any single period of 48 hours. Prescribed amounts are detailed in Part 2 section 12 clause 2 of the Mining Regulation 2010.

What is the process of considering fossicking in a park?

  1. Consent to fossick will only be granted if:
    • it is not prohibited under the plan of management
    • a review of environmental factors has been submitted and determined in accordance with the proponents guidelines for the review of environmental factors
    • a visitor safety risk assessment has been prepared and approved in accordance with the NPWS Visitor Safety Policy and Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Risk Management System
    • for state conservation areas outside Fossicking Districts, written permission has been obtained from the holder of any current mining titles.
  2. Fossicking proponents will generally be responsible for preparing the assessments required in Clause 16. National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) technical expertise or other assistance may be provided if requested, and if resources allow. A generic review of environmental factors (a type of environmental assessment) may be the best approach. Where NPWS assistance is provided, the proponent will need to provide site specific information and technical data. A financial contribution might be required, depending on the scale of the proposal.

How is consent granted?

  1. Consent to fossick may be granted via notification (i.e. park signage, OEH website and/or a specific statement in the relevant reserve plan of management) or by direct response to an applicant (where this does not contravene an existing prohibition via notification). An applicant may be an individual, group or company.
  2. If granted, the consent to fossick will define the areas to which it applies and set conditions. These conditions may include, but are not limited to:
    • restrictions on techniques and equipment
    • restrictions on the number of fossickers in an area
    • specifying appropriate weather or seasonal conditions
    • requiring fossickers to notify NPWS prior to commencing the activity
    • requiring fossickers to ensure that all their equipment is sterilised before entering or exiting a park to prevent the spread of pathogens
    • requiring fossickers to replace any soil, rock or other material that is disturbed
    • additional conditions as deemed necessary.
  3. Failure to comply with the conditions of consent may result in penalties, which may include a temporary or permanent prohibition on fossicking occurring in the park.
  4. Consents will be issued initially for a period of 12 months and may be extended on an annual basis, subject to compliance with consent conditions.

Scope and application

This policy applies to lands acquired under Part 11 or reserved under Part 4 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. This Policy does not apply to lands reserved under Part 4A of the Act unless the Board of Management for those lands has adopted it.

Fossicking Districts, gazetted under the Mining Act 1992, preclude the need for fossickers to obtain the consent of exploration licence holders to be able to fossick. Fossickers are still required to obtain permission from land-holders including NPWS (section 12 subsections 4-6 of the Mining Act 1992). Information regarding the location of fossicking districts can be obtained from NSW Resources and Energy. They are a layer that can be displayed in MinView.


Appropriate level of environmental impact assessment

Appropriate levels of environmental impact assessment are detailed in the Environmental impact assessment - REFs, CRAs and related guidelines.


Natural surface deposits of rock from rock outcrops or from areas of native vegetation. The rocks may be loose rocks on rock surfaces or on the soil surface, or may have been removed from rock outcrops by excavation or blasting.


NSW Industry and Investment's Fossicking: A guide to fossicking in NSW defines fossicking as 'the small scale search for and collection of, minerals, gemstones or mineral bearing material from the surface (or by digging from the surface) with hand-held implements. This activity may only be undertaken for recreational, tourist or educational purposes'.

There are four distinct categories of fossicking based on techniques and equipment:

Detecting: involves the use of electronic hand held metal detectors and the small scale excavation of the ground (to a depth of 0.5 metres) for the purpose of locating minerals such as gold.

Panning: involves the use of hand held pans in fluvial locations and the small scale excavation of river banks and beds for the purpose of locating minerals such as gold and gems such as sapphires.

Sluicing: involves the use of hand operated sluices in fluvial locations and the small scale excavation of river banks and beds for the purpose of locating minerals such as gold and gems such as sapphires. Generally more material can be processed using a sluice which means that more material can be excavated.

Mechanical sluicing: involves the use of mechanical sluices in fluvial locations and the small scale excavation of river banks and beds for the purpose of locating minerals such as gold and gems such as sapphires. Generally a significant amount of material can be processed using a mechanical sluice which means that a significant amount of material can be excavated. This amounts to a greater risk of harm and is therefore prohibited in all NPWS parks.


Land reserved under Part 4 of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, including a national park, nature reserve, historic site, Aboriginal area, state conservation area, karst conservation reserve or regional park, or any land acquired by the Minister under Part 11 of the NPW Act, or zones 1-3 of a community conservation area established by the Brigalow and Nandewar Community Conservation Area Act 2005.

Park authority

The body responsible for care, control and management of a park, as defined in the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009.

Plan of management

A plan of management for a park prepared under Part 5 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Prescribed amount

Prescribed amount, in relation to material, has the same meaning as defined in the Mining Regulation 2010.


The person or organisation proposing to fossick.


Consent to fossick can be granted by a regional manager, consistent with the delegation of Chief Executive Officer functions under the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009.

Page last updated: 04 May 2016