Do you have a legal right to use an access?

On 21 November 2019 the New South Wales government passed the Right to Farm Act 2019, which is described in its long title as “an Act to provide for matters relating to farm trespass and the defence of agricultural enterprises; and for other purposes”.

In remote and regional areas many people cross across private land on private roads to access their own and other people’s properties. Where this access is by way of an easement, or other private arrangement, and the access is not by way of a publicly gazetted road, the provisions of the Inclosed Land Protection Act may apply. The Right to Farm Act has amended the Inclosed Land Protection Act to include a new definition of agricultural land. This definition is broad and will cover most rural type land.

The Rights to Farm Act also amends Inclosed Land Protection Act to make it an offence for anyone who crosses over any of the agricultural land not to close any gates that they may encounter. The penalty for failing to close a gate now carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $1650.00. In addition, if any person crossing over the land willfully or negligently allows stock to escape this also carries a potential penalty of $22,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment.

Therefore, it is important to remember when passing over rural roads, even if you believe you are on a public road, if you encounter a gate that is closed you should assume that there will be livestock that it is preventing from escaping and ensure that the gate is closed again once you have passed through it. Failure to do so may result in unwanted consequences.