Environmental approvals for tour and expedition organisers

Antarctic tourists stepping ashore
Antarctic tourists stepping ashore (Photo: Stephen Powell)

Tourism and non-governmental expeditions to Antarctica organised from Australia or by Australians are also subject to the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980. 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 (ie outside the AAT). In some cases, where an activity is organised in another country that is 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 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 the 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.

If you are planning to use a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) during the course of your expedition, you must include details in your application. Please note that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) also have requirements in relation to the operation of RPA. Further information is available on the CASA website. You should also be aware of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) requirements in relation to RPA use in Antarctica, available on the IAATO website [PDF].

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.

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 two months prior to first departure of the season.

Only one environmental approvals 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 two 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 permit report template [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. This report should be prepared using the permit report template [Word].

The first two steps may be submitted at the same time if all information is at hand.