Are private landowners destroying the courtesy of community access on the south coast?

Zoya Patel 5 July 2021 27
Rosedale Beach

Rosedale Beach on the South Coast. Photo: Kim Treasure.

Like most Canberrans, I spend a fair bit of time down at the south coast. We’re lucky to be able to drive just a few hours and access (in my opinion) the best beaches in Australia, without the crowds of beaches closer to big cities.

Since childhood, I have enjoyed wandering down the little trails that weave through the forest that fringes beaches from Moruya to Bermagui, trodden down by hundreds of fellow visitors and residents to provide access to the hidden bays and coves along the coastline.

By unspoken mutual agreement, we have maintained these paths over generations, keeping them clean and free from litter, and limiting our impact on the surrounding forest by sticking to the trails we’ve made.

One such path that I’ve only recently come across is the trail that leads from the base of Tranquil Bay Close at Rosedale to the eponymous beach – a tiny, secluded stretch of sand only a few hundred metres long, with some of the clearest, calmest water and additional trails leading off the beach to cliff walks that locals have enjoyed for a long time.

Tranquil Bay path

The boundary fence on the path at Tranquil Bay. Photo: Zoya Patel.

Only on my latest visit, we started down the trail to be confronted by a large swathe of cleared bush and a wooden and wire fence, cutting off the path to the beach. Glancing in either direction, the fenceline stretches on and on – technically you can still access the path if you go all the way along the fence to where it ends, and head around it. But the beautiful, uninterrupted forest trail is no more.

Asking the locals, it turns out that the land they have shared and used as a common path is actually partially owned by the residents of one of the houses that sits behind it.

I don’t know the intricacies of this specific case, and I don’t own a property in Rosedale, so I can only speak from anecdote. But I have to wonder, in the absence of common land, can’t we at least retain common decency?


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This landowner, and any other who chooses to take similar actions on their own big bush blocks at the coast, is technically within their rights to erect a boundary fence, and clear the land on either side of it for access (and potential fire hazard reduction).

But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should, and it makes me particularly frustrated for the wildlife who have been able to enjoy free access in the bush until this point, and now have to figure out a way through, over, or around the extremely long fenceline.

In parts of Europe and the UK there are ‘right to roam’ laws that mean landowners have to allow access to walkers on certain land types, primarily in rural, country and nature settings. I wish something similar existed in Australia to protect the freedoms that have been enjoyed for so long, but that are clearly tenuously hinged on the common decency of the individual.

In the absence of such a law, I’m sure many Rosedale residents feel quite bereft at their loss of tranquillity at Tranquil Bay.


What's Your Opinion?


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27 Responses to Are private landowners destroying the courtesy of community access on the south coast?
Marjeta Marks Marjeta Marks 7:49 pm 04 Jul 21

The landowner has the right to fence it off to protect their property in all its entirety. The fence here doesn't limit many animals if any from moving through it. It's not even barbed. A wombat or possum can amble through. A walably or kangroo can hop over it.

A person can climb it but they obviously are not welcome to with out prior consent. That is the piont of the fence. Just as a fence in the suburbs marks out one's personally purchased piece of property. The sanctity of ones own backyard is purchased or rented and shared only with consent. That is someone's backyard. Its not parkland. The owner no doubt paid handsomely for both the fence and their piece of paradise. Be thankfull its not a 1.8m high colourbond solid structure. The owners are entitled to protect their land and themselves from the fool who may wander around and trip over and sue them or maybe its the dog owners who continously walk their animals off leash. The dogs allowed to chase the native fauna or defacting in someones yard.

There are plenty of public trails left and nature reserves. You just may have to travel further.

Ol L Ol L 11:30 am 04 Jul 21

The state government is too blame, they should have allowed clauses in sale for right of access or simply left access corridors.

DrLin DrLin 1:59 pm 02 Jul 21

“just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should”, exactly. Just because you can enter and walk across someone’s private land to get to the beach you probably shouldn’t, have some respect for others property.

Matthew James Matthew James 10:47 am 02 Jul 21

There is public right-of-way both North and South (but not East) from the end of Tranquil Bay Close.
People are perfectly entitled to fence off private land and unless somebody has fenced off the public right-of-way, nobody is stopping you from reaching the beach via public land.
If you want to do a bit of investigative journalism, get hold of the DP, figure out exactly where the fence is in relation to official boundaries and tell us if it’s an illegal fence or not.

Finagen_erection Finagen_erection 8:35 am 02 Jul 21

Tricky one,
Public beaches need reasonable public access points. If this particular beach has that, then we can’t really complain at this land owner decision.

Jaffa Groube Jaffa Groube 9:06 pm 01 Jul 21

Some of the property in question was threatened and burned in the 2019 bushfires. People in the local community who walk the tracks were there putting out spot fires, the right community thing to do.

Kellie McCann Kellie McCann 8:35 pm 01 Jul 21

Land up to the high tide line is generally crown land and is not a part of private property you can still use the beaches only an arrogant numpty would believe they own the beaches adjacent to their land. Hence why people on rivers who want to build jettys for boats actually need to get permission to do so

    Matthew James Matthew James 10:51 am 02 Jul 21

    Kellie McCann No sign of any beach in the photo, so that doesn't appear to be the issue here.

Edna Poynter Edna Poynter 7:48 pm 01 Jul 21

If you get hurt on their property maybe you can sue them?

Perhaps they're protecting themselves.

Mandy Evans Mandy Evans 7:14 pm 01 Jul 21

This woman seems to want to whinge, sweetheart they own the land they are entitled to do with it as they wish, would you like people traipsing through your backyard to get where they wanted to go? Im gonna go out on a limb and say no, no you wouldnt.

Henry Kivimaki Henry Kivimaki 6:43 pm 01 Jul 21

No. Go away socialists ! Go and work hard and earn it for yourselves.

Will Freebairn Will Freebairn 3:34 pm 01 Jul 21

Awful. Nobody should own a beach or have the right to block access.

Michael Kerr Michael Kerr 2:52 pm 01 Jul 21

No beaches in Australia should be blocked off.

    Matthew James Matthew James 10:51 am 02 Jul 21

    Michael Kerr Do you know of any that are?

Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 9:43 am 01 Jul 21

Europe has wildly different natural environment challenges. England has 55 million people in an area about half the size of Victoria. Comparing the two is silly.

Australia has national parks, state forests and coastal reserve areas bigger than most countries.

We have appropriate public and private space, no change is needed.

Barrie Ridgway Barrie Ridgway 9:25 am 01 Jul 21

It is high time that we have right to roam laws in Australia. The UK and Scandinavia have them. In the ACT we have leasehold land from which hikers are banned. In the ACT my understanding is that leases within declared Nature Reserves have been granted to farmers who have banned access, even along Government maintained fire trails. Overseas right to roam laws come with caveates, such as not damaging property, crops, disturbing animals, camping within sight of homes.

    Matthew James Matthew James 10:48 am 02 Jul 21

    These are suburban house blocks. Nobody should have a "right to roam" across your backyard.

Ursula Gamal Ursula Gamal 9:09 am 01 Jul 21

This subject matter is very sensitive. I feel for both parties. It really needs to be debated at a state level. And if the walkways do belong to the adjoining properties, compensation at fair market prices if the walkways are taken by councils for general public access.

Renee Mae Renee Mae 9:08 am 01 Jul 21

You get this at Wallaroo too. Residents have put up no tresspassing/private property signs on the access road across the river. They don't own the river or this road, everyone has a right to it yet they will try to tell you otherwise.

Chris Topher Chris Topher 7:50 am 01 Jul 21

Perfectly written by an entitled person. Here’s a thought … why not take a different path, go to one of the other beaches you refer to, or buy your own property with direct access.

    Chris Ellis Chris Ellis 3:44 pm 01 Jul 21

    Chris Topher you sound like an entitled person. Rights of way have existed in the UK for hundreds of years. Why should one person only have access to a beach. There was general outcry when Lindsey Fox did it.

    Chris Topher Chris Topher 4:43 pm 01 Jul 21

    Chris Ellis quite simply … they own it, their decision. If you’re not happy, buy your own or move to the UK.

    Chris Ellis Chris Ellis 7:50 pm 01 Jul 21

    Chris Topher clearly RWNJs such as yourself couldn’t possibly understand a concept of mutual benefits.

    Chris Topher Chris Topher 8:02 pm 01 Jul 21

    Chris Ellis you’re hilarious.

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:47 pm 01 Jul 21

    Chris Ellis what does RWNJ stand for? It's ok, just googled it "right-wing nut job" - sorry, calling people names or making assumptions about them doesn't help your cause

    Chris Ellis Chris Ellis 7:30 am 02 Jul 21

    Nada Krstin my cause is to point out false assumptions. I’m sorry you’re sorry.

    Matthew James Matthew James 10:51 am 02 Jul 21

    Chris Ellis Weirdly, rights of way exist in Australia, too.

    The real story here would be if that fence was across public land or a right of way, a question the author doesn't appear to have researched.

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