The public perception is against us offroaders, the mainstream media think we're yobbos, and National Parks have found it more cost effective to erect gates than to actually manage the land, and this isn't even mentioning the minority who always find a way to ruin it for the majority.
So the question is, are you doing your part to keep tracks open?
Get your hands dirty
Even if you live in the guts of the city it's pretty well a guarantee there's at least one bush oasis within a half hours drive. And it's more than likely packed with discarded rubbish, a couple of old fridges and maybe even a burnt car or two. Grab a couple of mates, a few 4WDs with trailers and go out for an old fashioned emu walk.
It'll take half a day one Sunday, and if everyone did it there'd be no such thing as a trashed track.
General waste is pretty cheap to dump, and any scrap metal can be taken to the scrappers and cashed in. Although, if you're pulling out burnt cars you'll have to give the local constabulary a heads up, there's a pretty slim chance the owners accidentally set fire to their car halfway down a track.
Half a day in the bush once a year is a small sacrifice to make.
Dob in an idiot
We all love ice cream right, why wouldn't you? But if you got a little bit of dog poop in it, even the smallest bit in a whole tub, you'd probably not be too keen on eating it any more.
We have the same problem with all the idiots (the dog poop) who go out there and make the rest of us (the ice cream) look bad.
Dumping rubbish is the most obvious one, but smashing down trees unnecessarily, tearing up tracks, circle work and setting fire to half the bush and calling it a campfire are all surefire ways to get tracks and campsites locked up.
There are name and shame pages on Facebook and all sorts of things like it, but rather than making some passive aggressive statement that only your friends will see, or whining about it down at the pub a week later, ring the police.
They might not get a fine but they'll sure as hell get a knock on the door that'll have them thinking twice next time they go to dump the clutch. It makes life a little more complicated if you actually know the people but if you call them out on their behaviour they'll be the ones red-faced, not you.
Don't act like an idiot
There's a difference between being an idiot and acting like one, and we're all guilty of making decisions that can at best be described as mentally challenged.
If you're on your 7th crack at a mud hole because your mate drove it and you don't want to winch, well you're acting like an idiot. Towing a boat across a sand island rather than launching it and towing an empty trailer? Yep, acting like an idiot.
The basic rule I like to use is, if this somehow ends up on national TV, will people just be talking about how much of an idiot I was rather than how I got in that situation. If the answer is yes, well it's probably not the best thing to be doing as far as track closures and land access go.
Next time you're cutting down every tree in sight to get a campfire going, driving a little too far out of the bush with a bush fix in place or sandboarding behind a mate's 4WD on Fraser Island, have a long hard think about what you're doing. There's a pretty good chance you're acting like an idiot.
Put on a good face
4WDers don't really have a crash hot image to the general public - jacked-up LandCruisers with exhaust stacks, mud flaps made of discarded thongs and plumes of diesel soot out the back while the owner is slamming back Woodstock bourbons in his favourite singlet give us an image more closely aligned with Wolf Creek than the conservationists we really are.
Nobody likes getting told they look like a muppet, but sometimes the truth hurts. If you're 100 kays from the nearest person, act the way you want; but if you're in a campground full of mums and dads in their pop-top caravans turn the Barnesy down, put away the slab of XXXX and enjoy a quiet night by the campfire.
Instead of telling everyone how 4WDers are a pack of yobbos they'll be voting to keep tracks open instead.
Pick up the phone
Let's set something straight: Politicians work for us. Sometimes they forget it and act in their own interests, but their job is to be our representatives and do what the general population think is right. If we all decide we'd like to start calling the sky pink, well it's up to them to make it happen.
Don't just send an angry drunken email to your local member, we tried that. Request a meeting, sit down face to face with them, and most importantly have a game plan. An A4 bit of paper in front of you with a few facts and figures, a list of concerns and a few suggestions.
If you're in there jumping up and down like an angry two-year-old they'll think you're a lunatic. Give them a good argument and a reason to act on it, and you'll be surprised how far it can go.
Put your money where your mouth is
As good as it would be to roll up our sleeves every single weekend and get things done, sometimes life just gets in the way. It happens to the best of us.
The good news is there's a few organisations out there actively fighting for your rights as land users. The most obvious is Unlock Australia, but you'd be surprised how many smaller groups and clubs are doing their part too.
The catch is there's not much profits to be made in fighting the government, so most of these organisations rely entirely on donations and other sources of income to keep fighting.
If you're not on their mailing lists contributing to numbers, not signing petitions and not becoming members are you doing your part? It's great to sit on a high horse and criticise but unless you're doing your part you'll just be person claiming you voted for someone else while the gates are locked forever.
Every little bit helps, whether it's cash donations, buying a T-shirt or two or simply offering to man the barbecue at a fundraiser, they need your help.
Bring it in, bring it out
If you can fit a weekend's worth of groceries in the back of your 4WD on your way there, you can certainly fit a weekend's worth of rubbish in on the way back.
There's nothing worse than getting to your favourite campsite and finding it trashed, bins overflowing and broken bottles in the fire pit.
Throwing rubbish in the fire doesn't magically make it go away, and a pile of rubbish around a bin is just as bad as a pile of rubbish without the bin.
If you're bringing stuff into the bush, bring it out, it's that simple.
Pull your head in
This one comes in lucky last, because frankly, it's the most annoying.
We need numbers to win. The family heading out to the bush for a day of driving tracks and seeing the sights in their Kia Sportage are having just as much fun as the guys rock bouncing in the lifted HiLux a few kays further down the track.
A friendly wave as you're driving past and a chinwag at the lookout about where they've been and what they're planning on doing could easily bring them into the fold as diehard 4WDers, and this means more people voting to keep tracks open.
Give them the cold shoulder, or laugh at their setup and they'll lump us all in one big group as a pack of idiots, and rightly so.
A lot of people think anyone with a smaller 4WD, or driving easier tracks than them isn't a real 4WDer, and anyone with a more modified rig, driving tougher tracks, is a lunatic. The reality is, for us anyway, anyone out enjoying the outdoors and exploring this great country is okay in our books.
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