Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Geocaching Policy

Geocaching, undertaken by geocachers, is an outdoor game in which participants use a global position satellite (GPS) receiver to find the location of a cache. A geocacher pinpoints the location of their cache using GPS technology and then posts the description, with latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates online. Anyone with a GPS unit can then try to locate the cache.

This policy sets out the conditions under which geocaching can take place in parks. The policy aims to:

  • minimise the impacts of geocaching on the natural and cultural values of parks
  • provide an opportunity through geocaching for more people to enjoy and appreciate parks and to raise awareness of parks and their conservation.

Geocachers are strongly encouraged to consult the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to assess the suitability of a proposed cache location and to find out about the information to be provided in cache listings.

Permissibility and consent requirements

1. Geocaching can occur in parks where consistent with the objects and management principles of the NPW Act and the plan of management for the park.

2. The placement of a physical cache in a park requires written consent from the Park Authority under clause 11 of the NPW Regulation.

3. Given that virtual caching, including EarthCaching, does not involve leaving any type of physical object in a park, it does not require consent under the NPW Regulation. Although legal approval is not needed to develop virtual caches, virtual caches can impact on park values and visitor safety if they are located in unsuitable areas.

4. Prior to developing a cache, geocachers are requested to liaise with the Park Authority to assess the suitability of the proposed cache location and to seek guidance on the information to be provided in the cache listing.

5. Caches which are developed by OEH staff will be subject to the same approval requirements identified in clauses 2 and 3 of the policy.

6. No fee will be charged for applications to place a physical cache in a park.

General principles

7. Office of Environment and Heritage will seek to foster a cooperative working relationship with the Geocaching Association of NSW to promote the objectives of this policy.

8. Due to the educational merit of EarthCaches and their potential to raise visitor awareness of park values, the activity of EarthCaching will be given favourable consideration in parks.

9. Geocachers are encouraged to adhere to the principles of Leave no Trace outdoor ethics and the Geocaching Association of NSW Code of Conduct.

10. Caches must not be buried and geocachers must not dig holes, construct stone cairns, or damage vegetation to hide or discover caches.

11. The cache owner must assume all responsibility for the accuracy of the online content of their cache listing(s).

12. The online information provided for a cache should include:

  • an educational message about the natural or cultural values of the cache location
  • the difficulty of the route and any other relevant safety precautions that should be taken
  • appropriate footwear and clothing
  • applicable park regulations, e.g. no dogs allowed
  • a link to NPWS's website where information is available for visitors, such as updates about park closures.

Suitable locations

13. Physical caches will not be allowed in:

  • Aboriginal areas
  • declared wilderness areas
  • nature reserves, or
  • caves.

due to the specific conservation requirements of these areas.

14. Caches must be placed to avoid the creation of new tracks or trails to reach them and cache owners are encouraged to use 'reference points' to ensure geocachers take appropriate pathways. All caches must be accessible from areas open to the public (e.g. from marked tracks, trails and visitor use areas) and comply with the public access rules and regulations for the park.

15. Caches must not be located:

  • in areas which may create a risk to the safety of a person visiting the cache or other park visitors
  • within 50 metres of Aboriginal objects, or
  • in, or within 50 metres of, Aboriginal Places
  • dams, lakes or watercourses.

16. Caches should not be located:

  • in areas known to contain endangered ecological communities, threatened species, populations, or their habitats, or
  • in wetland areas.

17. Under most circumstances it would not be appropriate to place a physical cache at a historic heritage site due to the sensitivity of these sites to impacts. However, it may be acceptable if a cache will increase understanding of the cultural and/or historic themes of the site and will have a minimal impact.

18. When determining the suitability of a proposed cache location, consideration should also be given to how many caches a park or particular site can sustain. This should include assessing:

  • the location and number of existing caches
  • any access constraints
  • the potential environmental impacts of any expected increase in visitation
  • whether clustering or dispersing caches would reduce potential impacts.

Containers

19. The Park Authority accepts no responsibility for the security of physical caches (e.g. if they are stolen or moved). The cache owner will assume all responsibility for cache maintenance, including being responsible for physically checking the cache periodically and especially when a problem has been reported by another geocacher.

20. Standard conditions will be adopted for consents to place a physical cache in park - see Geocaching Consent Form (PDF 192KB).

21. The maximum term of consent for a physical cache to be placed in a park is five years. The Park Authority has the discretion to issue consent for a shorter length of time, such as where there are concerns over cumulative impacts.

22. Consent may be revoked if the cache owner breaches the consent conditions or NPWS conclude that unforseen cumulative impacts on the surrounding environment make the location of the cache unsuitable. If revoked, the cache owner must archive the cache listing immediately and remove the cache as soon as practicable.

23. Consent to place a cache does not guarantee the location will remain open to the public, as parks or parts of parks may be closed either temporarily or permanently for park management or environmental reasons.

About the policy

Objectives

The objectives of the policy are to:

  • minimise the impacts of geocaching on the natural and cultural values of parks
  • utilise the increasing popularity of geocaching to provide an opportunity for more people to enjoy and appreciate parks and to raise awareness of parks and their conservation.

Scope

The policy applies to all lands acquired or reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 ('parks').

Definitions

Aboriginal Area means lands dedicated as an Aboriginal area under s30K of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Archiving a cache means removes the listing from public view on the internet.

Cache includes physical caches, virtual caches and multi-stage caches.

Datum is the framework that defines coordinate systems. The Australian Geodetic Datum (AGD) is the traditional coordinate system and has been replaced by the Geometric Datum of Australia (GDA). GDA is the current national standard, however some older GPS units may not have GDA.

Declared wilderness areas are those lands declared as wilderness under the Wilderness Act 1987.

An EarthCache is a type of virtual cache that is the site of a unique geological feature. To have an EarthCache listed on www.geocaching.com it must meet the website's guidelines. These guidelines require EarthCaches to be educational as well as adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.

Geocachers are individuals who practice the activity of geocaching, including both placing and seeking caches.

Leave No Trace outdoor ethics are techniques to prevent and minimise impacts on the environment while undertaking outdoor activities. Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules and regulations. More information is provided at Leave No Trace Australia

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

Physical caches are also known as traditional geocaches and consist of a sealed container which typically contains a logbook and pen/pencil.

In the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid the world is divided into 60 longitudinal zones numbered 1-60 and 20 latitudinal zones, numbered A to Z (with O and I not being used). For example the UTM grid zone which contains Sydney is 56H. In each UTM zone, coordinates are measured towards the east then the north, in metres.

A virtual cache is a cache that exists in a form of a location where no physical object is left.

A waypoint is a reference point for a physical location on Earth. Waypoints are defined by a set of coordinates that typically include longitude, latitude and sometimes altitude. Multiple waypoints (i.e. steps for a multi-stage cache) may be posted on a cache listing to help a geocacher search for the cache. The actual location of a cache is also a waypoint. 'Reference points' are waypoints where no physical cache is placed.

Accountabilities

Please refer to: delegation of Director-General Functions, National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Relevant legislation

  • National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act)
  • National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009 (NPW Regulation)
  • Wilderness Act 1987

MOU between NPWS and Geocaching Association of NSW

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Geocaching Association of NSW has been developed to promote sustainable and culturally sensitive visitor use of parks. The MOU also seeks to encourage:

  • improved understanding and awareness of geocaching
  • mechanisms for regular communication and issue resolution
  • improved compliance with government policy and guidelines.

Document to download:

Memorandum of Understanding between National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW) and Geocaching Association of NSW (PDF 216KB)

Related policies and other documents

Visitor Safety Policy

Page last updated: 26 May 2016