Is swimming, diving or accessing the Bexhill Quarry illegal?

I had it put to me by an employee of Crown Lands NSW (over the phone, despite their words they have not backed it up in writing) that accessing the Bexhill quarry is 'unlawful' and 'unauthorised'.

As they have chosen these words I now feel compelled to analyse it on behalf of the community and as a regular diver at the Bexhill Quarry.

DISCLAIMER None of this article is intended as legal advice, I am not your solicitor and this advice may not consider your individual circumstances. If you are in need of specific legal advice, please consult a solicitor with a current practicing certificate.

Now, is the access 'illegal' or 'unauthorised'? In short, no.

A report will be prepared for Crown Lands and the relevant minister within 1 month but in the meantime, here is a breakdown having read and interpreted Sections 1.7, 2.21, 2.22, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4, 9.5, 9.18 and 9.19 of the CROWN LAND MANAGEMENT ACT 2016 (NSW) and Regulations 5, 9 and 13 CROWN LAND MANAGEMENT REGULATION 2018 (NSW) I would be willing to conclude the following;

  1. Bexhill Quarry is crown land (crown land meaning belonging to the NSW Government).

  2. Crown Land do have powers under their acts and regulation to limit access to the Quarry and despite their empty threats over the phone earlier this year, have not exercised them.

  3. The Quarry remains open to the public as the following pieces of legislation that would prohibit access do not apply;

Section 9.4 - Crown Land Management Act

(1) An authorised officer may direct a person, within a specified period, to stop--

(a) using a structure on Crown land that the officer considers is being used without lawful authority, or
(b) carrying on an activity on Crown land of a kind prescribed by the regulations.

Firstly, Authorised Officer is any person the minister appoints but it should be reasonably expected that a crown lands employee may be an 'Authorised Officer'.

I do not believe they could exercise any power under section 9.4(1)(a) of the act as the current use of the Bexhill Quarry is not without lawful authority. There is no existing fence or signage that would indicate to a reasonable person that access is not prohibited. In fact, a commercial swimming pool has more fencing and signage than the quarry does and that is a place people are encouraged to swim.

For the aforementioned reasons, I also do not believe crown land can stop access under section 9.4(1)(b) of the act as their power 'carrying on an activity on Crown land of a kind prescribed by the regulations' would be limited by Regulation 13 of the Crown Land Regulations which reads;

There is no signage indicating the time(s) Bexhill quarry is open (or not open) to the public.

There is no fencing or other reasonable indicator of an area of the Quarry that is not open to the public.

So, based on their own act and regulations, I cannot see how the access of Bexhill Quarry is in any way unlawful, unauthorised or unreasonable.

If an employee of Crown Land was to state that 'accessing the Bexhill Quarry in its present state is unlawful', I would not be able to resist responding with 'well, accessing the crown land you do to go to work each day (public roads and footpaths) is just as illegal as accessing the Quarry.'

Now if Crown Land do put a fence and/or signage up (as crown land indicated to me months ago they would), then it would be illegal. Until then, enjoy the Quarry.

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