Native Plants & Animals

There are laws at both national and State levels designed to protect native plants and animals (also known as biodiversity)

View current opportunities to have your say about native plants and animals now

There are many opportunities to have your say about biodiversity conservation. Mechanisms for the protection of native plants and animals include:

Responding to government proposals

The national, State and local governments regularly invite input from the community on proposed changes to environmental laws. 

  • To comment on strategic assessments under environmental laws, visit the Australian Environment Department’s website. Strategic assessments are landscape scale assessments that look at a wide range of actions in an area. They can include assessments of industry sector policies, vegetation plans, biodiversity management, growth in metropolitan and regional areas, and the impact of industry on native plants and animals
  • To comment on draft plans of management for national parks in NSW, visit the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website. Plans of management are important because they set out how native plants and animals will be protected in the park and how people can use the park. Draft plans of management are placed on public exhibition before they are finalised, and the public can submit comments to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. For more information about plans of management for national parks, see our Fact Sheet on protected areas.
  • To comment on proposals to prepare management plans for Commonwealth marine reserves, visit the Commonwealth marine reserves website. Management plans for marine reserves are an important tool for protecting marine areas. Draft management plans are opened for public consultation before they are finalised.
  • To have your say about how environmental and conservation considerations are balanced against commercial and recreational interests in the marine environment, visit the NSW Marine Parks Authority website.

Responding to applications

Comments from the community are also invited on things like  development applications, environment protection licences, and forest agreements, which all have the potential to impact on native plants and animals. When commenting on these proposals you should ask yourself – are there any threatened species in the area? Is it a protected area? Will the environment been adequately protected if the proposal goes ahead?

  • To comment on proposals that are likely to have an impact on matters of national environmental significance, such as threatened species or world heritage areas, visit the Australian Environment Department’s website. This is a separate approval process to development assessment, which happens at the State level. For more information about how native plants and animals are protected under national environmental law, see our Fact Sheet on EPBC Act.
  • To comment on development applications that are notified in your local area, visit your local council’s website – DAs are often notified in a local newspaper and on the council’s website. Note that public comment is not invited for all developments assessed by the local council, and some types of development do not require public notification or involvement. For more information on development assessment processes, see our Fact Sheet on DAs and consents.

Notifications about opportunities to comment on proposals are often required to be published. The NSW Government is required to publish notices for some proposals in a locally circulating newspaper, and sometimes a newspaper that circulates throughout NSW (often The Land). You can keep an eye on the papers to make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity to comment. 

Monitoring and enforcement

Both governments and proponents have responsibility for monitoring the impacts of activities on native plants and animals. You can also monitor the impacts of activities on the environment, such as water and air quality.

Before reporting suspected breaches of environmental laws you will require evidence. It is also important to remember that the law contains certain exceptions and defences to offences. The most common defence is that a person hasa permit or licence to take the action which would otherwise be an offence, such as a licence to harm or pick a threatened species. If you are unsure about whether an action is an offence or not, call the Environment Line on 131 555.

National and State enforcement authorities can issue stop work notices in many cases where unauthorised activities are occurring that threaten harm to protected species.

    • Killing or injuring a native species in a Commonwealth reserve without authorisation.
    • Carrying out mining activities in a Commonwealth reserve.
  • To report harm of a NSW protected area, call the Environment Line on 131 555. Examples of illegal activity include:
    • Driving vehicles off-road or using camels, horses and machines in certain protected areas, or taking animals into a national park.
    • Camping in an area that has not been set aside for camping.
    • Taking an action that will have a significant impact on a nationally listed migratory species.
  • Report harm of a NSW protected species to the Environment Line on 131 555. Examples of illegal activity include:
    • Buying, selling or possessing threatened species or populations, or native plants or animals without a wildlife licence. The Office of Environment and can issue wildlife licences to authorise these activities.
    • Firing weapons.
    • Damaging critical habitat. The Office of Environment and Heritage is responsible for the listing of critical habitat. There are currently 4 critical habitats on the NSW list.

Under certain environmental laws, any person has the right to bring proceedings in a Court to remedy or restrain a breach. In NSW, this is mainly to the Land and Environment Court. For breaches of the EPBC Act, it is the Federal Court. See How can I have my say? for more information. You should contact the EDO NSW Environmental Law Line to request some initial legal advice if you would like to take this step.

Shaping environmental laws

Many environmental laws merely set out the framework for protecting the environment and rely on community involvement for proper protection. You can proactively seek to improve environmental laws through these processes.

  • To submit a proposal to the NSW government that land be declared as or added to a wilderness area, contact the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. This is a formal opportunity under the Wilderness Act 1987 (NSW). There is no such formal opportunity to nominate national parks or other protected areas. However, you may wish to consider making a submission to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to declare land a national park or other type of protected area.
  • The NSW Boards and Committees register is a list of people interested in serving on NSW Government boards and committees, such as reserve trusts for the protection of certain areas of environmental and heritage significance. Visit the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet website for more for more information.
  • Many councils have community advisory and consultative committees which may act as a liaison between the council and the community, or advise the council on matters such as the environment, heritage, and building and development. Contact your local council to speak to them about joining a committee. 

General

The national and State governments provide continuing opportunities to be involved in the laws designed to protect native plants and animals.