How do you know if a road is a public road

I use the exploroz mapset when travelling. This shows lots and lots of minor roads. Some of these are gated, some not. Some are clearly signed as leading to a station. My query is how do you know which are public roads and which aren't?
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Reply By: Member - DW Lennox Head(NSW) - Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 09:06

Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 09:06
From my experience, if it has a gate on it, there is every chance it is a private road. On my farm there were 'roads' showing up but there were no gates to access them. Some were gazetted roads that I paid rental on them to have them in enclosed land.
A lot of minor roads/tracks do show up on topo' maps. Again, my major farm tracks showed up and most were not on gazetted roads.
If there are no gates and/or signs indicating a private road it is most likely a public thoroughfare but adjacent land is most likely private.
If you are going into an area that is a grey area it is easy to ask locally who may know, eg., Police, Council, etc.

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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 10:11

Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 10:11
There are also gazetted public roads with gates across them for stock control.
There are a few areas where locals like to have the public believe that roads are private where they are in fact public.
One example was the road from the Pentercost crossing on the GRR to Diggers Rest which transits El Questro land. They tried to prohibit public use of that at one time. There are many other examples.

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Reply By: Member - Milton477 - Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 09:27

Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 09:27
A good question & an equally good first answer. The problem is that often it is difficult to find someone who has the answer. I am currently working near a place called Bocoolima at the bottom of the map. Approaching from the west, there are 2 ways in off the Dawson Highway marked on the exploroz mapset but we can only use one way. If I hadn't been told by my customer, I would have used the route through Voewood which is private - or is it?
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Reply By: equinox - Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 09:32

Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 09:32
Hi Terry,

In WA there is a map you can use.

Main roads
Check the sub Hierarchy check box.


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Reply By: Ron N - Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 11:54

Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 11:54
You don't know, unless you have carried out extensive research. The road and track system in Australia is a bureaucratic nightmare.
Every State has a different road control system, there are 100 different authorities and heirarchies controlling roads and tracks and land access throughout Australia.

Pastoral area roads are public roads, but pastoralists have the right to restrict public access to their properties and infrastructure.
Accordingly, it is good manners to visit station homesteads upon entry to stations to find out the station owners rules and to let them know why you are there.
They often have rules covering station visitors and travellers behaviour. Shutting gates, or leaving gates as you find them, is just one rule.
Bottom line is, as the leaseholders, they are responsible for the condition of the property and improvements, and undesirable visitors have been known to cause damage to both - and then depart without trace.

Then you have privately-owned and privately-constructed roads such as on mining areas, or across Crown Land, and/or giving access to rail or other infrastructure. These are generally clearly signposted.

The Aboriginal Land roads access is controlled by the Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal Councils, or the relevant State Aboriginal Affairs Dept.
Once again, each State is different when it comes to Aboriginal road control.

It's generally widely understood today that roads across Aboriginal Lands require Aboriginal authority permission to traverse them.
This is because Aboriginal Lands are essentially freehold land.

In W.A., roads through Aboriginal Lands are regarded as public roads, with conditions (permits) applied.
This is no different to the cities where occasionally, an important laneway is privately-owned freehold land - yet the owners are obliged to give the public access to the laneway for 364 days of the year, with the owner being obliged to totally restrict public access, on one day of each year, to show and retain freehold ownership of the laneway.

General rule of thumb - if a road is not signposted as private, or fitted with a locked gate, it is open to the public - or until you are challenged by someone.
When that someone challenges you, you'd better have superior knowledge of the road/track ownership authority in the region, than they do.

As previously stated, asking local authorities is a good start, if you intend to traverse a track where the status is in doubt.

The Police regard a "public road" as a maintained road whereby the public can access it easily, and it is not gated - and/or the public have been invited into that area.

Insurance claims and road casualty statistics often wrangle over whether an accident was on a public road or on private property.
In general, freehold land is regarded as private property, and access roads to the likes of homesteads on freehold land, are regarded as private property, and not public roads.

If a road is regularly maintained, and not gated, this normally would indicate it is a public road - but even this is not a hard and fast rule.
There are many public roads and tracks that are not maintained, yet keep their public road status.
Unmaintained tracks through unallocated Crown Land are rarely regarded as public roads.
Nearly all Crown Land today has been allocated a status, such as Park, Reserve, Forest, or other defined use - so an authority has been appointed that also controls vehicle movement across that particular piece of land.

Cheers, Ron.
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Reply By: Member - Blue M - Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 14:43

Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 14:43
I have just done a bit of touring around the back blocks in W.A. I have been to several council offices and asked about conditions and access to certain roads in the area that are shown on HEMA maps. The personal at the counter would not have a clue if it is not a popular well used road, get the next up the ladder and he has only been in the area for 3 months.
Try to show them the road in question and it is not on the brochure maps they provide.

Yes with a lot of planning you may be able to get your hands on this info, but just as a spur of the moment thing, some times it is not quite as easy as just asking and getting an answer you require.

This has been my experience of late.


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Follow Up By: 9900Eagle - Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 16:08

Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 16:08
Pity, if you could have found the head overseer of the road gangs, he would know all the gazetted roads in the shire as would all the grader operators.
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Saturday, Sep 17, 2016 at 09:51

Saturday, Sep 17, 2016 at 09:51
9900Eagle is on the ball. If you find the Shire Works Depot, and the Works Supervisor, or Overseer, he will have all the local roads knowledge.

However, you have to find the Shire boundaries first, and know which Shire the area is in, that you're inquiring about.

The Shire Supervisors and Operators know their Shires exact boundaries, but if the spot you're inquiring about is 200M into the next Shire, they will know nothing about that area, that falls under an adjoining Shires control.

Cheers, Ron.
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 19:15

Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 19:15
I am generally prepared to accept the information on HEMA maps as accurate.
If a road is marked "Private" it generally is and then permission is required to use it and I would seek that from the property owner or controller.
I put all pastoral land into this "basket".

Carson River Station is an interesting case in point.
We attempted to get permission via the Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation (who are the pastoral lease holders of the property), but failed. The following year, the Senior Elder gave us personal permission. We accepted that as sufficient.
Later the Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation sub leased the property to another group to run cattle on.

So who are we technically required to get permission from now?
The owner, the sub lease holder or an Elder or more than one of those?

Then there are the "Permit required" and that is usually clear.

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Follow Up By: Bill D6 - Wednesday, Sep 28, 2016 at 18:01

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2016 at 18:01

Out of interest I just looked at my farm which is in the Goulburn district of NSW. It shows several of my farm roads and they are definitely not public roads and they are not marked private. Other maps like the CMA map also show tracks which are nothing more than rarely used paddock tracks. So I would not rely on your opening statement. I have occasionally intercepted people claiming they are on a public road and it is necessary to treat this excuse with a high degree of doubt as these people are often thieves and illegal shooters who have no hesitation in cutting fences and letting my stock wander all over the place.
Maps are based on aerial photos and I do not believe the map makers go to much effort to distinguish the legal nature of the track or road as this can be a complex issue in the bush. So my advice is just to stick to the public road; if you are in any doubt try to find the homestead and clarify the situation with the manager or owner before they find you on their land. Remember their land is their livelihood - you are just on holiday.
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Follow Up By: Gramps - Wednesday, Sep 28, 2016 at 18:19

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2016 at 18:19
"Maps are based on aerial photos and I do not believe the map makers go to much effort to distinguish the legal nature of the track or road as this can be a complex issue in the bush."

Spot on Bill. I've noticed this with properties I have access to.

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Reply By: terryt - Saturday, Sep 17, 2016 at 07:08

Saturday, Sep 17, 2016 at 07:08
Perhaps the Exploroz team as the retailer of the maps could offer comment. Where does the information contained in the maps come from. As an aside I have come across many situations where either a road is shown but doesn't seem to exist or where a road I am on (and sometimes quite a decent one) is not shown. A recent example is the back of Sleaford Mere near Port Lincoln. There is a track that has been there for as long as I can remember and I'm 65 that is not shown.
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Reply By: Charlie - Saturday, Sep 17, 2016 at 12:15

Saturday, Sep 17, 2016 at 12:15
A public road will usually have a name, grading and fences either side of you.
If you look at the satellite view on Google maps its appears the Government have drawn a line calling it a road reserve but have never actually gone there and built one, the fact it has no name is a bit of a give away which is not to say all roads with a name are pubic.
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Reply By: Member - nick b - Saturday, Sep 17, 2016 at 19:52

Saturday, Sep 17, 2016 at 19:52
Terry . Maybe you could give us an example of where your question is coming from . State and location .
but in general most private roads are marked & locked because the landowner do not wish to have people driving through a property causing damage and Mayhem.
Cheers Nick b

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Follow Up By: terryt - Sunday, Sep 18, 2016 at 09:13

Sunday, Sep 18, 2016 at 09:13
I don't have a problem with marked and locked. I can take a hint. My question isn't coming from any specific location. I often see a road leading off and would like to toddle off down it to see what there is to see. BUT I don't want to step on anyones toes. A prime example would be abandoned mine sites. A lot appear to be on private land but they have a road/track leading to them. How do you know if access is allowed. I realise you can ask the landowner but that is often not feasible when you are in the middle of nowhere, don't have contact details for the station etc and generally don't have mobile signal even if you had a phone number.
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Follow Up By: Member - nick b - Sunday, Sep 18, 2016 at 09:50

Sunday, Sep 18, 2016 at 09:50
Yes i see what you mean , i guess it comes down to a matter of judgement .
Cheers Nick b

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