First assess all vigours and risks

THERE is a vast difference between embarking on a well planned bush walk, but getting into trouble, and jumping into an ill conceived adventure which also endangers those sent to save you.

That difference is illustrated in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) decision to fine a Victorian man who had to be winched from rugged bushland near Lithgow on the weekend.

A rarely used NPWS regulation was envoked to fine the man, who by all accounts was not prepared for an ambitious walk through Wolgan Valley. When he failed to make a rendezvous at Colo Heights his friends raised the alarm and a costly rescue operation was mounted.

It appears the only aspect of the planning he got right was telling friends when he expected to reach his destination. Without that, he might not have been missed for days and there could have been a tragic end to this story.

But the rescue could have ended tragically in any case. Earlier this year an experienced rescue worker was killed when he was slammed into a cliff face while trying to winch a bushwalker to safety.

It is this unnecessary risk to rescue personnel which makes a fine in this situation appropriate. 

The intention of the regulation is not to stop people from enjoying outdoor pursuits, but to appreciate the risks and plan well to minimise them. 

With affordable technology such as personal locator beacons available it is not unreasonable to expect bushwalkers to be equipped so that they can be located easily, if something does go wrong.

Despite living in a world of mobile phones, Google maps and global positioning satellites, the great outdoors is not without its risks. In Australia an army of dedicated volunteers backed up by rescue helicopters and aircraft can be scrambled to help someone in distress.

This does not give them the right to expect help without first assessing the rigours and the risks and taking reasonable responsibility for their actions.

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