Protected Areas & Public Land Management

There are over 820 protected areas in NSW. ‘Protected areas’ include both the NSW system of parks and reserves and Commonwealth reserves

View current opportunities to have your say about protected areas and public land management now

Protected areas are mainly protected through restrictions on development in those protected areas, and by the implementation of Plans of Management. It is unlawful to take actions in a protected area that are not in accordance with that area’s plan of management.

There are several different types of protected areas in NSW, including:

Read more about each of these in our Fact Sheet on protected areas.

Public land also includes:

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 proposals for and reviews of the types of activities that can be conducted in protected areas, visit the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website. Certain activities are prohibited in some protected areas. Sometimes activities that would otherwise be prohibited can be approved by the Government following an assessment of the impacts of the activity on the environment. For more infoamtion about protected areas, see our Fact Sheet on protected areas.
  • To comment on draft plans of management for national parks in NSW, visit the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage’s 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 Office of Environment and Heritage. For more information about plans of management for national parks, see our Fact Sheet on protected areas.

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 has a 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 areas.

    • Killing or injuring a native species in a Commonwealth reserve without authorisation.
    • Excavating or carrying out building work in a Commonwealth reserve without authorisation.
    • 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.
  • Contact the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) if you are concerned that someone may be lighting a fire unlawfully. A bush fire hazard reduction permit from the RFS or a fire permit may be required before a fire can be lit. In some local council areas approval to burn vegetation or other material may be required from the local council or the EPA. Generally, there is no need to obtain this approval to burn vegetation if the burning is conducted in the course of carrying on agricultural operations. However, approval may still be required if the burning meets the definition of clearing.  There is also an exception for the destruction of an animal that has died, or is reasonably suspected of having died, as a result of a disease. Read more about fire management in The Rural Landholder’s Guide to Environmental Law in NSW.
    • Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a nationally listed migratory species.
    • Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a place that is listed on the World, Commonwealth, or National heritage lists.
  • Report a suspected breach of NSW environmental law to the Environment Line on 131 555. Examples of illegal activity include:
    • Damaging protected areas or damaging or removing things within protected areas without consent. See our Fact Sheet for more information about protected areas in NSW.
    • Harming native animals, including game birds. Picking or harming native plants may also be an offence. Click here for more information about how native plants and animals are protected in NSW.
  • Report pollution incidents to the Environment Line on 131 555. If you are concerned about the use of chemicals or pesticides, or a pollution incident, you should first contact the individual or company to request an explanation and ask them to fix the problem. You should also report the pollution incident to the Environment Line on 131 555. For more information about pollution, see our Fact Sheet on air, water and noise pollution.

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 national environmental law, 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, visit the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website. This is a formal opportunity under the Wilderness Act 1987 (NSW). Nominations are made to the Office of Environment and Heritage. 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 Office of Environment and Heritage to declare land a national park or other type of protected area.
  • Join the NSW Boards and Committees register, which 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.


The national, and State and local governments provide continuing opportunities to be involved in the laws designed to protect the environment.