Environmental Impact Assessment, approvals and permits
If you wish to conduct scientific, management or recreational and other non-government activities in the Antarctic or subantarctic you will need to be aware of and to comply with all national and state legislative requirements.
The information contained within this section is provided as general guidance only on the environmental protection requirements under Australian law. You will still need to ensure that you are aware of all other legal requirements and that these have been satisfied before you depart for the Antarctic or subantarctic. It should be noted that some research activities could require up to five different permits in order to satisfy all environmental requirements.
To view or download permit application request forms, permit-holder report forms, or to obtain more information about permits and permit fees, refer to the relevant links below.
Australian Antarctic Territory
The main Acts which provide for the administration of the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT) are the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933 (which established the Territory) and the Australian Antarctic Territory Act 1954 (which details the legal regime). The Antarctic Treaty Act 1960 gives effect to the Antarctic Treaty.
Other Australian legislation implements components of the Antarctic Treaty system into Australian law, including the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980, giving effect to the Madrid Protocol, which sets out environmental protection obligations for parties to the Antarctic Treaty. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 applies to activities undertaken on Commonwealth land (such as the AAT) that may have significant impact on matters of national environmental significance. Laws of the Australian Capital Territory apply to the extent that they are capable of being applied and the criminal laws of the Jervis Bay Territory in so far as they are capable of being applied. Specific Ordinances can be made for the Territory.
Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands
The administration of the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) in the subantarctic is provided for by the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Act 1953 and the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Environment Protection and Management Ordinance 1987. The HIMI Territory is listed as a World Heritage Area, and subject to relevant obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Other Commonwealth Acts apply when they are expressed to extend to the Territory. Laws of the Australian Capital Territory apply to the extent that they are capable of being applied and the criminal laws of the Jervis Bay Territory in so far as they are capable of being applied. Specific Ordinances can be made for the Territory.
Macquarie Island Nature Reserve
Subantarctic Macquarie Island is part of the State of Tasmania and listed as a World Heritage Area in recognition of the island's unique geological features. The island is also listed as a Nature Reserve under Tasmanian state law (Nature Conservation Act 2002), whilst the south-eastern portion of the Commonwealth waters was proclaimed a Marine Park in 1999 under the Commonwealth National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. The Tasmanian National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 enforces the Summary of Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and World Heritage Area Management Plan 2006. All activities on Macquarie Island must be permissible by the Management Plan. Macquarie Island's listing as a World Heritage Area means activities undertaken in the Area are also subject to the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Fauna listed under state and national threatened species legislation also occupy the island. Activities on the Island will be assessed according to state priorities and protocols.
Current versions of Australian legislation and legislative instruments are available to read.
The decision to authorise an activity is made after consideration of the EIA by the Minister for the Environment or their AAD delegate. The method of assessment can be found in detail in the handbook below, used to administer environmental approvals.