Environmental approvals for tour and expedition organisers

Norwegian tourist ship
The Norwegian tourist ship "Nordnorge" in Fildes Peninsular, King George Island, in the South Shetlands. (Photo: Stephen Powell)

Tourism and non-governmental expeditions to Antarctica organised from Australia or by Australians are subject to the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980, which implements in Australian law the provisions of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (The Madrid Protocol).

Before any activity commences within the Australian Antarctic Territory, an environmental authorisation must be obtained, based on an environmental impact assessment (EIA) submitted by the organiser of the activity. This requirement to obtain an authorisation also applies to Australians and Australian companies elsewhere in Antarctica (i.e. outside the AAT). In some cases, where an activity organised in another country party to the Treaty and Protocol, Australia will recognise an authorisation provided by that country. As well as an environmental authorisation, permits are required for certain activities. Visits to Heard Island are subject to similar requirements.

To apply for your environmental approvals, the three steps outlined below need to be completed. Advance notification information and post visit reports are required annually. In some cases, multi-year environmental authorisations for recurrent activities can be granted, reducing the frequency at which an EIA must be conducted.

Please note that the EIA that you provide to AAD will form the basis for your authorisation, and you will need to carry out the activity in accordance with what you have stated in that document. You therefore need to include in the EIA details of all activities that you might carry out to ensure that your authorisation covers all aspects of the planned activity.

In addition to these legal requirements, there are a number of guidelines adopted by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties that apply to tourism and non-governmental activities in Antarctica. Tour operator guidelines.

  1. Advance notice – Due by 1 September

    Information is to be provided in accordance with Australia's obligations under the Antarctic Treaty and the Madrid Protocol to provide advance information on Australian activities in Antarctica. This Advance Notification form [Word] can be used as a guide for the provision of this information.

    Please complete the advance notification document and return to the AAD no later than 1 September each year.

  2. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – To be submitted 3 months prior to first departure of the season

    Only one EIA and permit application form [Word] is required from each operator for each season – please include details of all planned voyages and activities on the one document. Please download, complete and return this form to the AAD at least 3 months prior to departure.

  3. Post Visit Report Form – Due as soon as possible after completion of the activity, and not later than 30 days after the expiry date of the Authorisation

    A report is required as a condition of your authorisation by the date shown on the authorisation. A copy of the report form used by the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) for post visit reporting may be submitted in addition to a report detailing any additional matters by IAATO members. For all others use the EIA and permit report form [Word].

    A report is required for those people whose permit allows a visit to an Antarctic Specially Protected Area or who have a permit that requires a report using the EIA and permit report form [Word].

The first two steps may be submitted at the same time if all information is to hand. Any enquiries may be directed to the Environmental Officer (permits@aad.gov.au or phone 03 6232 3209; international: +61 3 6232 3209).