Geocaching policy

Geocaching is a great way for people to enjoy national parks. To protect animals, plants and Aboriginal heritage, you need to ask permission before placing a cache.

Person using a map and GPS device to navigate in a parkGeocaching is an outdoor game that involves using a GPS (global positioning system) receiver to find the location of a cache (a hidden non-monetary ‘treasure’ or piece of information).

The person placing the cache (the geocacher) posts a description of the cache online, along with its precise latitude and longitude.

If you want to place a cache within a park you need to send an application form (PDF 192 KB) to the National Parks and Wildlife Service office (NPWS) closest to the park and wait for written consent. NPWS will respond within 20 working days.

It’s a good idea to include the following information in your geocache description:

Policy

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

8. EarthCaches have educational merit and may help make visitors more aware of park values. Because of this, EarthCaching in parks will be given favourable consideration.

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 find 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 (for example, no dogs allowed in the park)
  • a link to updates about park closures

13. Because of specific conservation requirements, physical caches will not be allowed in:

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

14. You should place caches only where people can reach them with existing tracks and trails and won’t create new ones. It is a good idea to use reference points (a set of coordinates) to ensure geocachers take appropriate pathways. All caches must be accessible from areas open to the public (marked tracks, trails and visitor use areas) and comply with the park’s rules and regulations about public access.

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
  • in, or within 50 metres of, Aboriginal places
  • in dams, lakes or watercourses.

16. Caches should not be located:

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

17. It’s not usually appropriate to place a physical cache at a historic heritage site because doing so can affect the site’s heritage values. However, it may be acceptable if a cache will increase understanding of the cultural and/or historic themes of the site and have minimal impact.

18. When determining the suitability of a proposed cache location, the park authority should also consider 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.

19. The park authority accepts no responsibility for the security of physical caches (for instance, it will not take special measures to prevent them being stolen or moved). The cache owner is entirely responsible for maintaining the cache, including checking it from time to time.

20. There are standard conditions for consents to place a physical cache in park. They are listed on the 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 may issue consent for a shorter length of time in some circumstances, such as when there are concerns over cumulative impacts.

22. Consent may be revoked if the cache owner breaches the consent conditions or NPWS concludes that unforeseen cumulative impacts on the surrounding environment make the location of the cache unsuitable. If consent is revoked, the cache owner must remove the cache and cache listing (that is, take it offline) as soon as possible.

23. Consent to place a cache does not guarantee that 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.

Policy adopted 24 May 2017

Objectives

The objectives of this policy are 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.

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 section 30K of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Archiving a cache means removing the listing from public view on the Internet.

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

  • Physical caches are also known as traditional geocaches and consist of a sealed container that typically contains a logbook and a pen or pencil.
  • A virtual cache is a cache that exists in a form of a location where no physical object is left.
  • Multi-caches involve two or more locations, with the final location being a physical container with a logbook inside. Each stage (except the final) typically contains a clue to the next one.

Datum is the framework that defines coordinate systems. The Geocentric Datum of Australia (GDA) is the current national coordinate system. It replaced an earlier system, the Australian Geodetic Datum (AGD). 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, placing and/or 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 the care, control and management of a park, as defined in the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009.

A waypoint is a set of coordinates that typically include longitude, latitude and sometimes altitude. Reference points are waypoints where no physical cache is placed.

MOU between NPWS and Geocaching Association of NSW

NPWS has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) (PDF 216KB) with the Geocaching Association of NSW 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.

Accountabilities

Accountabilities under this policy are in accordance with the delegation of Ministerial and Director–General functions under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009.

This table only lists accountabilities which are additional to the legal delegations.

 Paragraph  Positions Accountable
2. Geocache consent Branch Director