Native Plants & Animals
There are laws at both national and State levels designed to protect native plants and animals (also known as biodiversity)
There are many opportunities to have your say about biodiversity conservation. Mechanisms for the protection of native plants and animals include:
- overarching tools, such as objectives and targets, biodiversity strategies, action plans, and strategic assessments;
- protective mechanisms offered by the national reserve system, including protected areas such as national parks and their management plans; and
- planning mechanisms, including threatened species lists and recovery plans, the identification of critical habitat and key threatening processes, and the formulation of threat abatement plans and action statements.
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 comment on fisheries assessments being undertaken by the Australian Environment Department, visit the Australian Environment Department's website. Assessments can be undertaken by the Australian Government to gauge environmental performance and to promote the ecologically sustainable management of fisheries. The public can submit comments to the Australian Environment Department.
- 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 major project applications, visit the NSW Department of Planning and Environment's website. These are developments that are considered to be of State or regional significance. They are often large scale developments, and include developments that have the potential to have significant impacts on the environment. The public can submit comments to the Department of Planning and Environment. To read more about the assessment of major projects, see our Fact Sheet on State significant development and infrastructure.
- 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.
- To report harm of a Commonwealth protected area, contact the Australian Environment Department. There are six Commonwealth reserves in Australia. Examples of illegal activity include:
- 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:
- Damaging the habitat of threatened species, populations or ecological communities.
- 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.
- To report harm of a nationally protected species, contact the Australian Environment Department. Examples of illegal activity include:
- Taking an action that will have a significant impact on a nationally listed threatened species, population or ecological community.
- 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:
- Harming an animal that is a threatened species, population or an ecological community, or picking any plant that is a threatened species, population or ecological community. Click here for more information about how threatened species and ecological communities are protected in NSW.
- Harming native animals, including game birds. Picking or harming native plants may also be an offence. For more information about how native plants and animals are protected in NSW, see our Fact Sheet on protecting native animals and plants.
- 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 nominate place for listing on national environment protection lists, visit the Australian Environment Department’s website. Any person can nominate places for the National Heritage list and Commonwealth Heritage list. For more information about how places are protected under national environmental law, see our Fact Sheet on the EPBC Act.
- 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.
- To nominate a threatened species or ecological community to national environment protection lists, visit the Australian Environment Department’s website. Any person can nominate a native species, ecological community or threatening process for listing under national environmental law. For more information about how native plants and animals are protected under national environmental law, see our Fact Sheet on Commonwealth threatened species law.
- To nominate a threatened species or ecological community or key threatening process to NSW environment protection lists, visit the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website. Listings are maintained by the NSW Scientific Committee, an independent committee of scientists appointed by the Environment Minister. For more information about how threatened species and ecological communities are protected in NSW, see our Fact Sheet on threatened species and ecological communities.
- To nominate an aquatic endangered ecological community, population or threatened species or a key threatening process for listing in NSW, visit the NSW Department of Primary Industries website. Anyone can nominate fish, aquatic invertebrates, and marine plants for inclusion. Listings are maintained by the Fisheries Scientific Committee, and independent committee of scientists appointed by the Minister for Primary Industries.
- 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.
The national and State governments provide continuing opportunities to be involved in the laws designed to protect native plants and animals.
- Visit the Australian Government’s public consultation portal, where a range of proposals are exhibited for public comment.
- Engage in the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Community Engagement Forum, where a range of environment and heritage initiatives are discussed.
- Visit the NSW Government’s Have Your Say website, where a range of proposals are discussed, and exhibited for public comment.