Shooting ranges policy

‘Range danger areas’ associated with shooting facilities sometimes extend into national parks. Our priority is visitor and staff safety.

Malabar HeadlandA shooting facility includes the range complex, firing line, target area and the range danger area (RDA). An RDA (also known as a safety template) is the area in which there is a risk of harm to life or property from shooting or ricochet within the facility. Shooting facilities that lie within or next to a park may have an RDA that extends into the park.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service works with the relevant authorities and the shooting facility to ensure that appropriate safety measures (such as warning signs and temporary park closures) are put in place.

Policy

  1. The NSW Police Force Firearms Registry regulates shooting facilities under the Firearms Act 1996 and the Firearms Regulation 2006. Where an RDA extends onto a neighbour's land, the Registry requires the shooting facility to have written permission to use the land from the landholder or agency in control of the land. This is known as a permissive shooting right.
  1. The use of parks for shooting facilities that are unrelated to park management activities, including as an RDA, is generally not a permissible activity under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act). Any licence or consent granted under the NPW Act for this purpose is likely to be invalid.
  2. Where there is evidence that the RDA existed before the land was reserved under the NPW Act, and it was authorised by some right granted by the Crown, then the Minister (or delegate) can recognise that right as an existing interest under the NPW Act as a basis for continued use of the RDA. The Minister (or delegate) may also renew the existing interest for such period and on such terms as the Minister determines. Recognition of the existing interest may be an opportunity to ensure that it is subject to strict terms and conditions that reflect the land's current status as a park.
  3. Neither NPWS nor the Minister is obliged to recognise an existing interest. However, in most cases, the risks associated with an RDA can be appropriately managed, and the land can continue to be used as an RDA, subject to appropriate terms and conditions.
  1. The manager of the shooting facility is responsible for demonstrating an existing interest. It is best done by using the original documents that granted the interest. Such documents include letters or occupational permits granted by the agency that managed the land before it was reserved under the NPW Act.
  2. The documents should include a map that clearly shows the location of the shooting range and the boundary of the RDA. They should also set out the terms and conditions of the existing interest.
  1. Some shooting ranges may be able to demonstrate their interest over the RDA prior to the land being reserved by using original documents. However, others may not, either because documents have been lost or because the previous interest was not formalised.
  2. If the original documents granting the RDA right are not available, a shooting facility or range may be able to demonstrate an existing interest in other ways (for instance, through statutory declarations from relevant authorities or historical competition records). In these cases, NPWS may seek legal advice or discuss the issue with the NSW Police Force Firearms Registry.
  1. Where an RDA extends onto a neighbour's land, the landholder or agency in control of the land must provide the shooting facility with written permission to use the land. This is a permissive shooting right.
  2. To recognise the right of an existing interest of the RDA on park, NPWS staff should use the template letter (an internal document available to staff), editing it to reflect local circumstances and safety requirements. This letter is taken to be a permissive shooting right. It acknowledges that projectiles may encroach on the park, and that range officials may need to enter the park to patrol the area or to erect signs or flags to ensure the safety of visitors and staff. Someone with appropriate authority from the shooting facility must sign and return the letter and attached deed of indemnity.
  3. The letter must identify on a map the boundary of the shooting facility and the RDA. It should accurately reflect the interest that existed before the park was reserved under the NPW Act.
  1. The template letter includes standard terms and conditions. The relevant branch can add terms and conditions as appropriate.
  2. The documents provided by a shooting facility to demonstrate an existing interest may or may not have included terms and conditions. Regardless of whether terms and conditions were included and, if included, what they were, NPWS may impose new terms and conditions that reflect its requirements as the land manager.
  3. The existing interest holder should counter-sign the letter. This provides evidence that the facility has agreed to the terms of use and gives those terms contractual status.
  4. NPWS may impose terms that include the charging of fees. This applies whether the RDA is being formally recognised as an existing interest for the first time (in the absence of original documents) or whether it is being renewed (that is, original documents have been presented). Fees are determined on a case-by-case basis. Staff should contact the NPWS Property and Commercial Branch for advice.
  1. Where NPWS permits an RDA on park, the park authority must assess the safety risk to visitors and staff and identify appropriate risk-mitigation measures.
  2. Risks should be recorded in relevant risk registers and/or Work Safe Online (WSO). The NPWS Health and Safety Risk matrix is available to staff as a reference. The terms and conditions imposed on the use of the RDAs will inform much of the risk management response. The NSW Police Force Firearms Registry inspects ranges regularly as part of the licence renewal process and will identify non-compliance with safety requirements.
  3. Park managers should consult the Park Signage Manual for information and templates related to safety signage.
  4. Park managers dealing with high-risk RDAs should consider using the safety-alert system on the NPWS website to notify the public of shooting days and explain any track or road closures.
  1. Action or inaction on the part of the shooting facility may suggest that an RDA should be terminated. Before doing this, staff should carefully consider the terms of the existing interest, especially the particular term that may have been breached.
  2. To terminate an existing interest that has been formally recognised, NPWS should write to the shooting facility and allow it to make a submission in response.
  3. NPWS has broad discretion to terminate an existing interest at any time. NPWS staff must seek legal advice prior to commencing any termination proceedings. Documentation of the process must be forwarded to all affected organisations.
  1. A shooting facility may not require an RDA on park if the range is converted to a no danger area (NDA) or if the shooting facility ceases to exist. Staff should document and submit a formal termination of existing interest to the shooting facility.
  2. An existing interest cannot be renewed after it has been terminated.
  1. If an enquiry from a shooting range user or community member relates to the functions of the shooting range, then the inquiry should be directed to the shooting facility or the NSW Police Force Firearms Registry.
  2. NPWS staff should deal only with inquiries about park management and risk-mitigation measures in a park. If staff are unable to respond to an inquiry about a shooting range, they should contact the NPWS Strategy and Policy Team. For inquiries about specific range requirements, NPWS staff should contact the NSW Police Force Firearms Registry.
  3. All media enquiries should be directed to the Corporate Communications Branch.

Policy adopted 17 February 2017
Policy last updated 19 March 2020

Scope and application

This policy applies to all lands acquired or reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) except for lands reserved under Part 4A of the Act (unless the Board of Management for those lands has adopted the policy). However, NPWS staff can use the policy as guidance in their dealings with Boards of Management.

Objectives

This policy provides:

  • clear guidance for risk management
  • the parameters for legally recognising RDAs as existing uses under the NPW Act
  • information on how to confirm RDA boundaries
  • guidance on how to manage stakeholder engagement.

Definitions

Existing interest, under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, means a lease, licence, permit, authority, authorisation or occupancy granted under the Forestry Act 2012, the Crown Lands Act 1989, the Crown Lands (Continued Tenures) Act 1989 or the Western Lands Act 1901.

Park means a reserve gazetted under the 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 Act. It includes a park managed jointly with the Aboriginal community under Part 4A of the Act.

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.

Permissive shooting rights means written permission provided by the legal owner of the land or other person legally authorised to give this permission, for range personnel to have access to and conduct activities relating to the use of the shooting range. For parks, this will be written recognition of an existing interest.

Accountabilities

This section outlines NPWS staff with significant responsibilities for ensuring implementation of the policy.

Paragraph Position accountable
3 and 12 – approvals to recognise and renew existing interests Branch Director
17 – managing and recording risks through risk registers and Work Safe Online Branch Director
22 and 24 – terminating existing interests Executive Director