Last updated 8 February 2023

In reality, the entire framework of laws for planning and development, vegetation management, mining, water, fisheries and environmental harm are critical for nature conservation.

Protected areas and protected wildlife

The Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld) (Nature Conservation Act) provides the framework for the creation and management of protected areas including national parks, conservation parks, resources reserves, nature refuges, coordinated conservation areas, wilderness areas, world heritage management areas, international agreement areas and protection of native species.

The Regulations under this Act provide detailed rules regulating activities in protected areas and a permit and licensing system for the taking or keeping of native wildlife. These regulations include the Nature Conservation (Protected Areas Management) Regulation 2017 (Qld) and the Nature Conservation (Animals) Regulation 2020 (Qld).

Nature conservation plans, such as the Nature Conservation (Dugong) Conservation Plan 1999 (Qld), regulate the conservation and harvesting of particular species or groups of protected wildlife (for more threatened species information see the Department of Environment and Science website).

National parks and other protected areas

National parks cover only around 8% of Queensland but provide the most comprehensive and important system of terrestrial protected areas in the state.

National parks and other protected areas are protected under the Nature Conservation Act and associated Regulations. National parks are owned by the state government and managed for nature conservation. They are managed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service within the Department of Environment and Science.

There are some basic rules for national parks:

  • All animals and plants (both alive and dead) in national parks are protected and may not be killed, harmed or removed.
  • All cultural features in national parks are protected.
  • Camping or carrying on any commercial activities in any national park or protected area without a permit is not allowed.
  • Animals cannot be taken into a national park or any other protected area (there are some limited exceptions to this such as guide dogs).
  • Feeding of native animals in a national park or other protected area is not allowed.
  • Mining is prohibited in national parks.
  • The economic use of parks for activities like grazing and beekeeping is controlled by permits.

Marine parks

The most famous marine park in Queensland is the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Marine Park, which was created by the Commonwealth Government under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (Cth).

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is responsible for the GBR Marine Park in conjunction with numerous state departments such as the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol within the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Other marine parks in Queensland are created under the Marine Parks Act 2004 (Qld) including the Moreton Bay Marine Park.

Protection of native wildlife and threatened species

There are special rules imposed by the Nature Conservation Act to protect native wildlife outside national parks and other protected areas:

  • All native mammals (except dingoes), reptiles, amphibians, birds, some butterflies and some native plants are protected wildlife. It is unlawful to take, kill, injure or trap protected wildlife unless authorised (s 88).
  • A permit or licence is required for the harvesting, taking, keeping or display of protected wildlife.
  • A special licensing system for native birds applies.
  • Licences are required to take, keep or sell a limited number of protected plants.

Some plant and animal species are declining in numbers and are at risk of extinction due to a range of threatening processes. These species may be listed as threatened species at state, national and international levels.

At a state level in Queensland, as at 31 August 2020, there were 1000 species (230 animals and 770 plants) listed as threatened under the Nature Conservation Act.

Of these species, about 400 are listed as threatened nationally under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act). The EPBC Act also provides for the listing and protection of threatened ecological communities and migratory species at a national level.

World heritage areas

World heritage areas are recognised places of outstanding universal value listed at an international level under the World Heritage Convention. Queensland has five world heritage areas:

  • Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
  • Wet Tropics World Heritage Area
  • Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh) (located north-west of Mt Isa)
  • Fraser Island World Heritage Area
  • Gondwana Rainforest Reserves of Australia World Heritage Area (rainforests in south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales, including Lamington National Park).

Virtually all world heritage areas are also protected as national parks or marine parks, so the status as a world heritage area is an additional level of protection to an already highly protected area.

Nature refuges and conservation agreements

People who wish to conserve biodiversity or cultural heritage on their private land can volunteer their land to be nature refuges under the Nature Conservation Act and enter into conservation agreements under the EPBC Act.

These agreements bind future owners of the land to the conservation agreements’ terms. Landowners entering into such an agreement may obtain assistance from local, state or Commonwealth governments in managing the land.