Environment Law in the Northern Territory

Role of protected areas in biodiversity conservation

Both Commonwealth and Northern Territory conservation laws have a process for establishing and managing land in a way that can provide protection for certain types of animals and plants.

Under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act there are several types of protected areas that have a role in biodiversity conservation.  These are:

  • Territory parks – These are areas that are to be managed in accordance with several goals, including the preservation of the park in its natural condition; the protection, conservation and management of wildlife within the park; and the appropriate use and enjoyment of the park by the public.[1]
  • Reserves – These are areas that are to be managed according to the reason that the specific  reserve was set up; to preserve the reserve in its natural condition; and to protect, conserve and manage of wildlife within the park[2]
  • Wilderness zones – These are areas of a park or reserve that are wholly or partially declared to be wilderness zones and maintained in their natural state[3]
  • Sanctuaries – These are areas that only certain people, such as conservation officers, government employees, and mining companies can go into.[4]
  • Areas of essential habitat – These are areas that have been recognised as essential for the survival of wildlife generally or certain species of wildlife.[5]

The areas that have the greatest level of protection for species under Northern Territory laws are Territory parks, reserves, sanctuaries and wilderness zones.  The killing of protected wildlife in a Territory park, reserve, sanctuary or wilderness zone is forbidden and the Minister for Lands, Planning and Environment cannot issue permits to kill wildlife in these areas.[6]  Areas of essential habitat have less protection for species as the Minister for Lands, Planning and Environment has permission to issue permits to kill wildlife in these areas.[7]

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 there are also several types of protected areas.  These include:

These areas are protected for their natural or cultural values.  There are restrictions on the types of activities that are allowed in these areas.  Activities that risk causing significant impacts on these values, or on species and ecosystems protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, may need to be assessed and require Commonwealth approval before being conducted.  For more information about the environmental impact assessment process, please read our Fact Sheet Series on Environmental Impact Assessment.

For more general information about how protected areas are established and managed, read our Fact Sheets on Protected areas.


[1] s18(5)(a),(c),(d) Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[2] s18(5)(b),(c),(d) Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[3] s17(6) Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[4] s25C Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[5] s37(1) Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[6] s45(3)(a) Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act

[7] s45(3)(a) Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act excludes areas of essential habitat from the list of protected areas