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Parks and Legislation

Legislation forms the legal basis for the workings of government. Such Legislation provides the broad direction and functions for achieving the objectives and roles of protected areas including designating different types of protected areas. In Australia the responsibility for land management, and hence management of national parks and other conservation reserves, generally resides with the States and Territories. The Australian Federal Government manages a small number of national parks including Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks.Read more

Legislation forms the legal basis for the workings of government. Such Legislation provides the broad direction and functions for achieving the objectives and roles of protected areas including designating different types of protected areas. In Australia the responsibility for land management, and hence management of national parks and other conservation reserves, generally resides with the States and Territories. The Australian Federal Government manages a small number of national parks including Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks.

The several hundred national parks in Australia and thousands of other conservation reserves are managed by government agencies in each of Australia's eight states and territories. All national park management agencies in Australia operate under legislation that contains similar core elements including the functions of ‘care, protection and management’ of park values and ‘facilitating that level of demand for recreation that does not impair these values’. In addition, an increasing number of protected areas are privately owned, in particular the properties held and managed for nature conservation (and in some cases tourism) by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Bush Heritage Australia. Australia also has 36 Indigenous Protected Areas covering 23 million hectares and managed by Indigenous people.

This function of fulfilling recreational demand, as central to the legislated purpose of national parks was conceived in the creation of the very first national parks and the first national park legislation (The National Parks Service Organic Act, 1916) which confirmed the purpose of national parks as:


"...to promote and regulate the use of the...national parks...which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

NSW become the first Australian State to introduce a dedicated National Parks Act in 1967. This legislation includes an objective of:

“fostering public appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of nature and cultural heritage and their conservation…” and to

“..provide opportunities for public appreciation and inspiration and sustainable visitor use and enjoyment…”.

While the States and Territories have primary responsibility for land use, planning and management (which includes the management of national parks), issues of national significance relating to the natural and cultural environment are controlled under Commonwealth legislation, namely the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 (Cth). This legislation provides protection for a range of national values including certain threatened species, and the values within Australian National Heritage areas and World Heritage properties. Any proposals that could threaten national values (as defined) needs to be considered under the EPBC Act 1999 (Cth) and referred to the Commonwealth for assessment.

National park legislation also provides specific direction for the preparation of national park management plans (see our 'Visitor Planning' section) and associated public consultation requirements. In addition, the legislation and subsidiary legislation (Regulations) set the parameters for licensing and leasing commercial operations (predominantly tourism operations) in national parks and other protected areas See sections 'Visitor Management' and 'Partnerships' for further information.


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