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Geocaching activities on land adminsitered DOC


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Hi all,

 

I am not sure who in your group I should be talking with, so I decided that I would post this message for all users to be able to see, and comment. icon_mad.gif

 

My name is Gareth Green, and I am employed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) as a Community Relations Officer (Concessions/Statutory Land Management). icon_razz.gif

 

My attention has been drawn to your web site, and the activities that you undertake, sometimes on land admistered by DOC on behalf on all New Zealanders. I note from your American host web page that geocaches are encouraged to gain approval from landowners before placing the cahches. Although this has not occured to this point (a quick check internally shows that DOC has not had a formal request from any of your members), I understand from these pages that you (somewhat understandably) have been tentative about approaching the Department to discuss the issues surronding your sport (which I must say seems a very novel and interesting idea!). icon_confused.gif

 

Please rest assured that the Department are not monsters, and we are not automatically opposed to your sport being undertaken on land that we administer. icon_biggrin.gif

 

This said, there will be/are issues surronding this sport that the Department would like to discuss with you. There are avenues that will be available for issues to be worked through, and these issues resoloved towards your group and the Department comming to a mutural understanding bout your sport (be it through a formal MOU, informal agreement or otherwise). icon_smile.gif

Such an agreement, would no doubt, be able to be the basis of other agreements with TLA's.

 

I realise that this message may be seen as what you have been dreading for so long icon_eek.gif but I hope that we can make contact and legitamise these activities in a easy and hassle free way. icon_cool.gif

 

As such, please contact me, so that we can discuss the issues and start to work towards solutions. icon_rolleyes.gif

 

I can be contacted at

04 472 5821 (work) or,

ggreen@doc.govt.nz or,

04 499 0077 (fax) or,

PO Box 5086, Wellington.

 

I would be more than happy to meet with a represntative of your sport to discuss the issues if appropriate. icon_wink.gif

 

Gareth Green

Community Relations Officer

Concessions/Statutory Land Management

for Conservator

Wellington Conservancy

Department of Conservation

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Well there it is.. I should know that nothing is 'off the record' but no harm done. icon_razz.gif

 

I suggest that as we now have DOC asking for liason we should oblige. As I have said before I am happy to talk to Gareth and without entering into any MOU or formal agreements I can find out what the issues are going to be. Then I can bring them back to this forum for discussion and suggestions. This should not stop continuing discussion and sounding out of support toward forming an INC Society.

 

I propose to give this message a week to air and if there are no dissentions or alternative person coming forward (maybe someone in Wellington?) I will speak personally with Gareth and see whats what..

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I don't really think that calling someone who wears a survey grade gps a 'dork' is very appropriate, even in jest, especially when used in the context of talking to someone who has a hand in whatever the final outcome of geocaching on DOC administered land is icon_eek.gif

 

The only reason you would be using a backpack GPS is when you need highly accurate measurement - and if you need highly accurate measurements, you use the correct tools - even if you do look slightly odd with a mushroom growing out of your back. I am sure that the two fellow geocachers who develop these specialised pieces of equipment, and one (that I know) geocacher who has to use one, would agree.

 

Cheers

Nick.

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I agree.

 

As someone who on occasion, and through no fault of their own, has to wander around with the "Little Yellow Brolly", it is not nice to mock such an affliction.

 

...Still, I keep taking the medication and hope that one day someone else gets to put up with the ridicule from the public icon_wink.gif

 

HLD

Who delights in the freedom of a handheld GPSr!

 

A friend helps you move house. A REAL friend helps you move a body!

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No offense taken - and I sometimes think that I do look like a "dork" while walking through the bush, GPS on my back or not!

 

That said, we also have palm held Garmond Etrax ones for some jobs/locations!

 

I am going to be in the bush with a GPS next week, so if you see a "dork" walking around the bush, say hi!

 

Cheers

Gareth Green icon_smile.gif

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Hi all. I have asked Nick to post the meeting notes as I don't have good internet access currently.

 

I have tried to keep the notes as objective as possible and not impart any of my views on the notes. If you have more questions, post them here or to the NZ forums at gps.org.nz, but I will note be able to reply until Thursday when I return to Christchurch.

 

20030127 1500-1415 DOC Meeting

Present: Gareth Green, Gavin Treadgold

 

Geocaching activities do not comply with the Conservation Act, Reserves Act, National Parks Act and other bylaws and regulations. An agreement is needed to legitimise the activities.

 

A concession would be required rather than a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which is too informal. A concession is legally binding, and is consistent with the requirements placed on other users of DOC land. An organisation would require to be able to enter into legal binding agreements - this means that we would have to work as an Incorporated Society. The concession would have to be linked to the constitution of the society, in such ways that if members breach the conditions of the concession, the society has the power to caution and/or expel the member from the society. Expulsion would not necessarily stop a DOC prosecution against the individual involved, if appropriate. TLA's may accept concessions, but are unlikely to accept MoU's.

 

Conservancies would contribute to the creation of the concession agreements, and this would then be passed onto the Minister of Conservations delegate (assigned Ministers signing power) to sign off concession.

 

DOC desire to work with only one organisation representing geocaching in NZ. They suggest that people who want to geocache, must be members of the society. This dictates that the society should limit geocache information to members only, and have moderation control over caches.

 

Geocaching is primarily at fault, for these major reasons.

 

1. A physical object is illegally being placed on public land. This holds true for both DOC land, and any other public land that may be managed by territorial authorities. Technically, this means every geocache on public land in New Zealand is illegal.

2. Pay to play. If an organisation is generating revenue from geocaching, then that organisation requires a concession to operate on DOC land. Geocaching.com is charging subscriptions and generating revenue from NZ geocachers. This means that NZ geocaching.com members are undertaking geocaching as a commercial activity.

3. Sponsorship. Any form of sponsorship and advertising in the activity, such as web site advertising etc, constitutes a commercial activity.

 

Actually, on a legal basis, it doesn't even have to be a commercial activity, but even if there is some hint of a gift or reward there is a legal issue. DOC's legal opinion is that the exchange of gifts in geocaches is a form of gift or reward. Hence a commercial activity, and requires a concession.

 

A concession costs money to process, and a rent may be charged on DOC land. There is the ability to waive these costs. A concession generally costs $1k but can apply for a reduction. This is valid for 5 years. It may be possible to argue for a waiver on these costs, but still opt for some environmental monitoring charges to cover DOC's monitoring of geocaches. This could be charged on a per annum licence, possibly pro-rated on the number of caches. Rent is reviewed 3 yearly. Concessions create responsibilities on both parties.

 

If/when we apply for a concession, we can apply for a reduction in costs, by highlighting the lack of advertising and commercial nature to geocaching in New Zealand.

 

In certain cases where access to DOC land is via private property, cachers will still be required to arrange access with the private land owner.

 

There would need to be an approval process. This would likely be acceptable using the current mechanism on geocaching.com. New caches would only be approved if they are placed in acceptable locations, and by members of the Society.

 

For auditing and quality control purposes, we will need to keep a database of all caches and coordinates, and make this available to DOC - perhaps on a monthly basis.

 

A cache should expire, most likely this would occur after a set number of visits, not after a set time. This is something that would need to be discussed further to set the quantum of visits.

 

Caches should require standing labelling on the outside, at a minimum the geocache code to identify it. Naturally, adhesive labels are not practical. Obtaining the geocache code prior to placement may be an issue.

 

Cache contents are an issue.

 

There are iwi issues. DOC partners with iwi and in general may act as facilitator, however this is not guaranteed. Iwi will have issues with burying (not that we have buried caches), and wanting to know specifics of where caches are (as opposed to giving blanket approval for an area).

 

Some areas will be absolute no-cache areas. Some examples, Kapiti Island, where people are not allowed off track, Mt Ruapehu Crater Lake, and some areas in Fiordland and offshore islands where no people are allowed. This has been outlined as a bottom line requirement.

 

Site access. Such as no motorised vehicles of roads, no helicopters, or tracks through sensitive areas. Would possibly require separate concession, or utilise a concession operator to achieve these otherwise. Mountain bikes can only be used on mountain bike marked tracks.

 

Maximum number of caches. This could be managed by total number of caches on DOC land, or by a distance buffering method. Distance buffering, eg no cache within x km's of another on DOC land may be the more suitable option.

 

There should be no digging at cache placement site, nor the addition of other objects.

 

DOC must be able to remove, or ask for removal of a cache or specific item, if they break the rules or are seen as unsuitable.

 

We must deal with the issue of safety of cache hunters. We will have to include a safety document with the concession application.

 

= Summary

Currently it appears that all geocaches on public land are there illegally. This is because they are physical and are there without permission. There appear to be two solutions. Go through the process of incorporating a society, developing the processes, and apply for a concession for DOC to allow caches on DOC land. This may ease the issues with geocaching on public non-DOC land. This option will involve _a lot_ of time and some costs on our behalf.

 

An alternative option is to not place caches on DOC land. This will absolve us of the compliance issues associated with geocaching on DOC land. It will not deal with the issue of other caches which appear to illegally be on public land managed by Territorial Authorities.

 

I should note that there are no issues with virtual activities such as Minutewar or Geodashing.

 

[This message was edited by BigNick on January 27, 2003 at 11:10 AM.]

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quote:

2. Pay to play. If an organisation is generating revenue from geocaching, then that organisation requires a concession to operate on DOC land. Geocaching.com is charging subscriptions and generating revenue from NZ geocachers. This means that NZ geocaching.com members are undertaking geocaching as a commercial activity.


 

This seems to be stretching the reality a bit, don't you think? The geocaching.com subscription applies to a very small subset of geocachers who wish to support the website and obtain the special advantages.

 

I thought the Concession application applies more to commercial 'outdoor tourism' type organisations who wish to use DoC land for direct commercial gain. Eg, Fergs Kayaks taking punters over to Rangitoto. I would hate to think that geocaching could be perceived as such when it most certainly is not.

 

quote:
3. Sponsorship. Any form of sponsorship and advertising in the activity, such as web site advertising etc, constitutes a commercial activity.

Again, this seems a bit week to me. It's like saying my personal free homepage on geocities is a commercial site because of the advertising put on by Yahoo. The parties and transactions all occur in the U.S. I, sitting here in NZ just clicking away with my mouse, am not paying any money nor receiving any money from any geocaching activity.

 

Auckland Kayakers Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/auckland-kayakers

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Well, I'd hate to say it but I think this DOC involvement with Geocaching may bite us in the butt!!

I cant see how geocaching can be offensive or illegal to anyone in New Zealand. It is not as if what we leave behind is trash, it is something left that is discreet and well maintained by cachers who visit the site.

Cachers also help keep an area tidy as do alot of outdoors people by picking up litter.

 

Calling Geocaching a "commercial enterprise" is laughable, it is merely a hobby or sport.

 

I hope the DOC dont spend too much of the taxpayer funds setting up rules, memorandums or whatever so that cachers can continue doing their thing as we are.

 

Thats my thoughts anyway

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I afraid Steve may be right & I hope were both wrong. Never underestimate the power of a grinding bureaucracy with unlimited resources and time.

 

This is the 1080 dropping, tramping hut removing, wapiti commercial hunting, fee-hungry custodian of the Public Estate we’re dealing with.

 

As soon as I read concession, Iwi, expiring caches, too informal and the rest of the “civil servant speak” I admire our representatives for impartial reporting but fear their efforts are already wasted. Rather than welcome a simple, extremely low-impact, family-friendly, outdoor activity DOC have reacted with legalistic knee-jerk reaction with the aim, thinly disguised, of extracting fees.

 

Like I say I’d be delighted to see a simple agreement but even casual experience with DOC in Fiordland leads me to believe that’s very unlikey.

 

Our grandchildren may one day study the previous 20 years of NZ Politics and have a name for it.

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Well, talk about an organisation bringing out the biggest stick they can and beat people over the head with it.

The legal eagles have been in full flight.

Commercial activity. Bit of a stretch of the definition to say that exchanging trinkets is a reward, therefore a commercial activity. I suppose next that will include that fact that I pay fuel and road user charges for my vehicle to get to these location, therefore becuse someone is making money it is a commercial enterprise.

This is supposed to be a fun, no harm, explore the environment, get out and about, low cost thing to do.

Now someone wants make us turn it into another incorporated society. What a nightmare.

No wonder that things like boating are so popular. There is less bureaucracy out on the water.

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quote:
This is supposed to be a fun, no harm, explore the environment, get out and about, low cost thing to do.

Now someone wants make us turn it into another incorporated society. What a nightmare.

No wonder that things like boating are so popular. There is less bureaucracy out on the water.


 

Hmmm MSA is reputed to have plans drawn up for more bureaucracy on the water.... Just waiting for the right accident to generate the required public outrage

 

Child gets hurt... no one is going to stand up and say "hang on.... you are doing as much damage with your rules as you are preventing!"

 

Thats as it may be.... the overiding problem we as a country face is that our children aren't getting out there enough and when they do they are surrounded by rules protocols policies and other cotton wool. Geocaching helps get them out without all that BS and in so doing gives them opportunities to learn. Real experiences and challenges... real risks, decisions and consequences... real Successes and failures.

 

Doc should be encouraging this activity, perhaps using it in conjunction with its education programmes. It could be a tool within the risk management strategy rather than a threat to it.

 

We need rules but we need the rules to be few and simple... isn't that what makes a good game?

 

If the real world was like Playstation perhaps then the kids would want to play in it. If all they do is play Playstation maybe thats what the world will be like? If DOC made a playstation game the kids could learn about the outdoors... and then really go there... and blow it up.

 

Ok I'm ranting but arrrgh! Playstations

 

If Doc have discression to waive or reduce the concession fee why do they not have discression to abandon the opinion that the exchange of trinkets is commerce? A much smaller philisophical jump IMHO.

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Hi all geocachers down there in NZ.

I really hope you manage to sort something out with those dunderheads in the DOC.

Don't they realise the harm they are doing to NZ's reputation overseas? Here in Sweden we have always considered NZ to be an enlightened country when it comes to people's rights etc., but this really makes us wonder.

Here in Sweden there is a law called Right of Public Access. This mens that any member of the public has the right to travel on or camp on "unfenced" property, pick wild fruit, mushrooms and flowers. Of course we must use our common sense as far as protected species is concerned, not light fires in the summer etc. By and large, most people respect the rules as we are very aware of this priceless right that we have.

Good luck to you all in your fight against this unwanted and unwarranted bureaucracy.

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