Wildlife licensing reforms

The way we regulate wildlife management activities in NSW is changing.

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) establishes a new approach for regulating human interactions with native animals and plants.

The new BC Act commences on 25 August 2017 as part of a package of land management and biodiversity conservation reforms.

Existing wildlife licence classes, conditions and fees will remain in place after the Act begins.

Public consultation on proposed reforms to improve wildlife licensing will occur in the second half of 2017 with approved changes to be progressively implemented during 2018.

What is changing?

Some changes to wildlife regulation will take place when the BC Act commences on 25 August 2017 and changes to wildlife licensing will be implemented after public consultation.

Check this page regularly for updates and opportunities to review proposed changes and provide feedback.

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) commences on 25 August 2017 and replaces:

  • the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995
  • parts of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 relating to private land conservation and native animal and plant management.

The new Act establishes a new legal framework for:

  • protection of animals and plants (Part 2)
  • areas of outstanding biodiversity value (Part 3)
  • threatened species and threatened ecological communities (Part 4).

The BC Act:

  • strengthens protections for native animals and plants
  • significantly increases penalties for non-compliance
  • increases transparency by establishing public registers of wildlife licences.

Under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act), the management of interactions with native animals and plants is proposed to change to a new risk-based approach where:

  • low-risk activities will be exempt from regulation
  • moderate-risk activities will be regulated by enforceable codes of practice
  • high-risk activities will continue to be licensed.

The level of risk is based on the likely impacts on:

  • populations of native animals and plants
  • animal welfare
  • human health and safety.

The BC Act has a range of offences related to wildlife, such as harming animals, picking certain plants and buying and selling plants and animals.

To avoid committing an offence, any wildlife activity that is not exempt or covered by a code of practice will require a biodiversity conservation licence of the relevant licence class, unless a defence applies.

Some activities will continue to be prohibited and will not be allowed under an exemption, code or licence, for example, harming koalas.

Benefits of a risk-based approach

The new approach to wildlife management will:

  • allow government to focus resources on compliance and enforcement for higher risk activities
  • reduce the administration burden for community members undertaking lower risk wildlife activities
  • provide a greater focus on education to improve community knowledge and understanding of wildlife conservation and protection, and the impacts of human-wildlife interactions.

Timeline for implementation

Existing wildlife licence classes, conditions and fees will remain in place until the new risk-based approach to wildlife licensing is implemented.

Targeted consultation has already been undertaken with key stakeholders about proposed changes to existing wildlife licence classes and proposed codes of practice.

In the second half of 2017, public consultation will be undertaken on:

  • proposed changes to existing wildlife licence classes
  • proposed codes of practice.

During 2018, implementation will take place for:

  • approved changes to wildlife licence classes
  • newly developed codes of practice.

When the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 commences on 25 August 2017, existing wildlife licences granted under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 or National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 will remain valid until they expire or are due for renewal.

If changes to existing licence classes are implemented during 2018, Office of Environment and Heritage will notify relevant holders of existing licences beforehand if they:

  • are exempt from holding a licence and no longer need a licence, or
  • no longer need a licence but must comply with an enforceable code of practice.

When the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) commences on 25 August 2017, new wildlife licences or renewals of existing licences will no longer be issued under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 or National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 but granted under the BC Act.

Existing wildlife licence classes will remain in place. Applicants will be granted a biodiversity conservation licence of the relevant wildlife licence class with appropriate licence conditions.

Applications for new licences or renewals of existing licences lodged before the 25 August 2017 but not yet determined will be treated as applications under the BC Act.

If changes to existing wildlife licence classes are implemented during 2018, OEH will notify relevant applicants beforehand if they:

  • no longer need to apply for a licence, or
  • will not be granted a licence but must comply with an enforceable code of practice.

When the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) commences on 25 August 2017, wildlife licence classes under the National Parks and Wildlife Act and Threatened Species Conservation Act will be retained as BC Act licence classes until the new risk-based approach to wildlife licensing is implemented.

Information about proposed changes to existing wildlife licence classes will be provided during the public consultation on the risk-based approach to wildlife licensing. Public consultation will take place in the second half of 2017 with approved changes to be progressively implemented during 2018.

From 25 August 2017, there will be some changes to the administration of threatened species licences (Section 91 licences).

Section 91 licences - changes from 25 August 2017

  • The section 91 licence currently granted under Section 91 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 will be referred to as a 'threatened species licence' under the BC Act.
  • Applications for a threatened species licence will be either granted or refused - the BC Act does not provide the option to issue a certificate rather than a licence as done under Section 95 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 where the proposed activity assessed is not likely to significantly affect threatened species.

When the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 commences on 25 August 2017, existing licensing fees will remain in place. This includes existing fee discounts for pensioner animal keeper licences and no fees for licences to harm native animals where there are risks to property and safety.

Information about proposed changes to licence fees will be provided during the public consultation on the risk-based approach to wildlife licensing. Public consultation will take place in the second half of 2017 with approved changes to fees to be implemented during 2018.

Proposed codes of practice to implement the risk-based approach for wildlife licensing will be exhibited during the public consultation to be held in the second half of 2017 before coming into effect during 2018.

Under the risk-based approach to wildlife licensing, moderate-risk activities will not need a licence and may be carried out in line with an enforceable code of practice.

Until the risk-based approach to wildlife licensing is implemented, all wildlife activities that require a licence remain in place.

When the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) commences on 25 August 2017, there will be increased penalties for not complying with the rules related to interactions with native animals and plants.

The BC Act includes a range of offences, such as:

  • harming threatened and protected animals
  • picking threatened and protected plants
  • dealing in threatened and protected animals and plants, for example, buying or selling, trading, or importing into or exporting from NSW
  • damaging habitat of a threatened species or ecological community
  • breaching a licence condition
  • providing false or misleading information in matters relating to the BC Act; for example, licence applications.

Tiered penalties

There are substantial maximum penalties for offences under the BC Act.

The BC Act provides for tiered offences. The tiers reflect the degree of risk to native animals and corresponding penalty amounts/jail terms. Conduct by individuals and corporations is also differentiated.

Species Type Maximum penalties for individuals* Maximum penalties for corporations*
Threatened species (other than vulnerable species) $330,000 plus $33,000 per animal and/or 2 years jail $1.65 million plus $165,000 per animal and/or 2 years jail
Vulnerable species $88,000 plus $8,800 per animal $440,000 plus $44,000 per animal
Protected species $22,000 plus $2,200 per animal $110,000 plus $11,000 per animal

* Additional penalty per animal does not apply to breach of licence conditions

Penalty notice offences

Offences under the BC Act can also be dealt with by way of a penalty notice.

For example, the penalty notice amount for damaging the habitat of a threatened species or ecological community is:

  • $3,300 for individuals
  • $16,500 for corporations.

When the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 commences on the 25 August 2017, public registers of all new wildlife licences granted will be publicly available on this website.

The public register of wildlife licences will not include personal information about licensees and, where appropriate, information about the location of animals and plants will not be published.

A new online licensing system known as the Wildlife Management System will be implemented from early 2018.

The new licensing system will accept online applications for all types of wildlife licences. The option of using paper forms, however, will still be available.

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 provides for accreditation of wildlife rehabilitation services.

Wildlife rehabilitation services provide specialised care and treatment for injured and sick native animals and is an important service for the community.

Office of Environment and Heritage will work together with wildlife rehabilitation services through a consultation process to develop a new wildlife rehabilitation accreditation scheme.

It is expected the accreditation scheme will commence in late 2018. Until then, licensing of wildlife rehabilitation services will be retained.

Public consultation on the risk-based approach to wildlife licensing will be conducted in the second half of 2017 and will include information on:

  • proposed changes to existing wildlife licence classes
  • proposed codes of practice.

Feedback received will be considered in finalising changes to wildlife licensing with approved changes to be progressively implemented during 2018.