Environment Law in the Northern Territory

Offences for harming, interfering with, or killing animals and plants

The biodiversity conservation laws at both Northern Territory and Commonwealth levels contain important provisions for the protection of plants and animals by creating criminal offences (and in some cases civil offences) for undertaking certain activities that may cause harm to biodiversity or wildlife.

Northern Territory criminal offences

Under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, there are a number of criminal offences for treating wildlife unlawfully. These include:

  • taking or interfering with protected wildlife without authorisation.[1]  “Taking” means:
    • in relation to an animal – to hunt, catch, restrain or kill, or attempt or assist to hunt, catch, restrain or kill, the animal; and
    • in relation to a plant – to sever, remove, damage or destroy, or assist to sever, remove, damage or destroy, the plant.
  • a person having in his or her possession, or under his or her control, an animal that is protected wildlife without authorisation.[2]
  • bringing protected wildlife into, releasing protected wildlife in, or take protected wildlife out of the Territory without authorisation.[3]
  • taking or interfering with unprotected wildlife (i.e. wildlife that is not classed as protected wildlife) for commercial purposes without authorisation.[4]
  • directly or indirectly, altering, damaging or destroying an area or part of an area of essential habitat without approval.[5]
  • taking, interfering with or removing wildlife in or from an area of essential habitat without authorisation.
  • There are also offences for possession and control of items or animals in areas of essential habitat that are forbidden, such as a weapon that discharges a projectile or any kind of trap.

Commonwealth criminal and civil offences

Under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, there are criminal offences and civil penalties for taking action that results, or will result in, or is likely to have, a significant impact on a listed threatened species, endangered community or listed migratory species.[7] The maximum criminal penalty is imprisonment for a term not more than 7 years, a fine not more than $71,400 or both. [8] The maximum civil penalty is $5.5 million for a body corporate.[9]

Who are the regulators?

The Parks and Wildlife Commission is responsible for day-to-day management of Territory parks, reserves, wilderness areas and sanctuaries. If a conservation officer reasonably believes a person to have committed an offence under the Act they may serve a notice on the person.[10]   People who are concerned about biodiversity conservation should contact the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission. The Parks and Wildlife Commission website has a list of contact details.

The Commonwealth Minister for Environment is responsible for making decisions as to whether actions are controlled actions, and for granting approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.  The Commonwealth Department of the Environment is responsible for prosecution of offences under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.  The Department of the Environment website has information about enforcement.  People who are concerned about an activity that could be affecting a nationally-threatened species or ecological community, should contact the Compliance and Enforcement Branch of the Commonwealth Government Department of the Environment.


[1] s66(1) Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[2] s66(2) Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[3] s66(3) Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[4] s67 Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[5] s67C Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[6] Regulation 2, Penalty Units Regulations; s66(1) Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[7]s18A(1) and (2) Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and see s20A for migratory species

[8]s18A(3) Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

[9]s18 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

[10]s7 Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Regulations 2010