Environment Law in the Northern Territory

Introduction to biodiversity conservation laws

Introduction to biodiversity conservation laws

Conservation of biodiversity or biological diversity (meaning the variety of species) is an important goal of several environmental laws.

Native animals and plants in the Northern Territory are mainly protected under two conservation laws.

  1. First, the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, provides a legal framework to protect nationally and internationally important animals and plants (often called flora and fauna), ecosystems, and certain heritage places.  It applies throughout Australia, including in the Northern Territory.
  2. Second, the Northern Territory Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act protects certain species of wildlife in the Northern Territory.

The main ways in which biodiversity conservation laws work are by:

  • creating protected areas such as parks, reserves, sanctuaries and other designated areas in which certain types of plants and animals are protected[1]
  • classifying the conservation status of animal and plant species so that species can be protected anywhere in the Northern Territory (irrespective of whether they live in protected areas or not)
  • imposing criminal offences for harming, interfering with, or killing plants and animals
  • creating laws and plans for managing native species, including laws for the management of non-native and invasive species
  • requiring approvals and permits to be obtained before certain activities can be lawfully conducted, such as permits to take wildlife, or approvals for actions that may have a significant  impact on biodiversity

This Fact Sheet series explains how each of these aspects work.  For more information, please read our Fact Sheet pages on:

  • Role of protected areas in biodiversity conservation
  • Classifying the conservation status of animal and plant species
  • Offences for harming, interfering with, or killing animals and plants
  • Management obligations for biodiversity conservation
  • Requirements for approvals and permits that affect biodiversity

Native fish are protected under the Northern Territory Fisheries Regulations, which forbid people to take, whether as by-catch or otherwise, any fish or aquatic life which are a protected species under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act.[2]  The Northern Territory Heritage Act may also offer legal protection for plants and animals as plant or animal communities can be considered to be heritage places under the Heritage Act.  For more information, read our Fact Sheet on the Heritage Act.

Non-native animals may also be protected under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act if they live in certain protected areas.  In addition, all living vertebrate animals (and fish in captivity) are protected under the Northern Territory Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulations, which aim to ensure that animals are treated humanely, to prevent cruelty to animals and promote community awareness about the welfare of animals.[3]


[1] Please read our Fact Sheets on Territory Parks, reserves, wilderness areas and sanctuaries; Ramsar Wetlands; and Indigenous Heritage for more information about protected areas

[2] Regulation 10 Fisheries Regulations

[3] s3 Animal Welfare Act