We Interview the Queensland 4x4 Club
Four-wheel driving is built into the Queensland psyche; with such a spectacular state to explore, it's not hard to see why. Nobody knows better than the members of the QLD 4x4 Club, who have been championing the needs of their community for 50 years. So what is it about the great northern state that draws its residents out to the remote tracks and back roads? We spoke with Peter Fowler, president of the QLD 4x4 Club, to find out.
(Image: The Queensland 4x4 Club dates back to the early 70s.)
Q. Tell us a bit about how the club began.
The Queensland 4x4 Club dates back to the early 70s with a group who called themselves “The Buggy Club” who got together in their dune buggies and held events and trips in Queensland’s South-East corner region.
In May 1971 this group decided to formally establish the group and developed a constitution to form the “Queensland Off Road Association” (Q.O.R.A). They continued with events and were well known in the region for assisting to construct many of the beach vehicle entry points along the coast and supporting local charities and groups.
During 1985 in recognition of the growing popularity of passenger style 4wd vehicles that then dominated the club membership they changed their name to the “Queensland Off Road 4x4 Club” but were still focused on family-based 4wd trips but now including many organised club trips further afield.
In 1998 we once again changed to the current club name to remove the “Off Road” stigma but our focus is still on sustainable 4WD social activities for our members and guests.
(Image: The club has volunteered for many community charity events over the years.)
Q. What role does QLD 4x4 Club play in the wider community and what are some of the initiatives the club is currently involved in?
Our club has over the years volunteered for many community charity events from delivering presents for Smith Family and rubbish removal in local forestry areas and Fraser Island Clean Up (now in its 20th year).
In 2019 our club hosted a statewide 4WD event for 4WD Queensland (our state association body) at Blackbutt, a small rural community South West of Caboolture, where we garnered support for the local businesses and donated over $7,000 to local community organisations and close to $7,000 each for Mates for Mates and Drought Angels.
Our club has been involved with many community activities providing information about responsible use of 4WD vehicles whilst participating in our recreational pursuits.
(Image: The club provide free driver awareness courses to members.)
Q. In the time you've been involved in the 4WDing community, what are some of the biggest changes that have taken place and what do you see as the big challenges going forward?
I purchased my first 4WD in 1981 and joined my first 4WD Club (in Albury/Wodonga Victoria) in 1992. Back then you were considered to have a heavily modified 4WD if it had All Terrain Tyres and a 2” Lift. We had many exciting adventures touring through the Victorian High Country and once moving to South East Qld all through the many Queensland State Forests getting to know our vehicle’s capabilities and how to get them through the touch tracks safely – all whilst interacting and assisting our fellow members on the trip.
The biggest change has been the affordability and availability of 4WD equipment. We often see many first time 4wders who have 4” lifts, double diff locks winches and electronic traction aides who do not appreciate the benefit of picking the right vehicle line and what causes a loss of traction. This also has the disadvantage of meaning that there is less assistance needed by others in the convoy and therefore less interaction and sharing of knowledge.
As for challenges for now and the future we now see more internet forums that provide advice and come together as groups running trips but without any real checks or balances – it is very difficult to know who actually has experience compared to an opinion based on speculation. In fact, anecdotally it seems that many young people stay away from clubs due to the rules and scrutiny that exists within them.
Our club (like very many others) has provided free driver awareness courses to Members which regularly receives feedback similar to “I thought I knew a lot but this has provided so much more information that would not have got elsewhere”. Access to public land to conduct 4wding has been slowly reducing over the last 40 years and dramatically over the past 20 years, with locked gates a norm now.
The reason the land managers give is to blame the “irresponsible” hoons with 4wds and yet these same agencies and bureaucrats do nothing to encourage club membership as we are all tarred with the same brush. The young people having fun are probably no different to what we were like years ago, cutting our teeth and getting experience.
We got together in clubs because we needed others with 4WDs – but there are plenty of them out there now so it is not hard to find company. Our government should recognise the need for recreational activities like 4wding which strangely enough result in a love to get out into nature and conserve the environment and they should support formal clubs who can help to educate those starting out and give them excitement and experience without damaging the environment.
(Image: Make sure you go out in small groups, a few cars makes 4WDriving safer as you will have support.)
Q. As the borders open up and people look for new ways to get out and about around Australia, what advice to would you give to inexperienced 4WDers getting out and about for the summer?
Unfortunately for those in Queensland, we are likely to have a very wet summer period so many of the recreational areas are going to be treacherous (well fun for them but bad for the environment)!
Try to stay out of State Forests that have seen lots of rain as their tracks are easily damaged if wet. If it has been wet - choose private destinations that have legal access and don’t mind you getting muddy. Also make sure that you go out in small groups, a few cars make it safer as you will have support. Most clubs will still be operating trips and usually allow visitors on trips so get in touch with a local club and they can show you around.
Q. For anyone heading to QLD in a 4WD for the first time, what are some of the top tracks or areas they should visit?
Anyone visiting Queensland from down South will want to go the beaches as we can legally drive on many beaches – but please pay for the permits so we continue to enjoy this privilege. Other than that, most of the state forests dotted along the coastline allow access to small groups, just follow the signage.
We are also very fortunate to have 4WD Adventure parks such as Landcruiser Mountain Park, which although will cost money you can camp out and enjoy a wide variety (from easy to hard) of tracks that have already been rated so that you can match your experience and vehicle capability.
Q. What's the best way for people to get in touch with QLD 4x4 Club?
Our club has a webpage that allows you to learn more about our club and what we are doing www.queensland4x4club.org.au