Running a commercial activity in a national park

Commercial activities

Any commercial or business activity carried out in an area managed by The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) must be operated according to a formal agreement, granted under the National Parks and Wildlife (NPW) Act 1974. The following information helps explain the process, how and why it functions this way and what you need to do if you want to discuss operating a business within a national park.

Legislative requirements under the NPW act

An agreement is an official authorisation granted by OEH to engage in a commercial or business activity on its land under its management. The agreement may be in the form of a lease, licence, permit, consent, franchise or easement (see current register of leases and easements). In effect it represents a legally binding contractual arrangement between OEH and the agreement holder.

OEH commercial opportunities are advertised on the NSW Government tenders website. However, individuals or companies can also approach OEH to seek permission to operate a particular business or commercial activity.

In certain instances OEH inherits commercial activities from other government or private land owners when it expands its national park and reserve system.

Examples of concessions include the establishment or use of:

  • accommodation facilities including historic homesteads, cabins, lighthouses and the ski fields
  • camping grounds and caravan parks
  • restaurants, kiosks/cafes and
  • marinas.

Where a private company operates such facilities, the contractual arrangements will reflect government requirements relating to the probity of how agreements are offered and the securing of fair, market-based returns to OEH.

NPWS also licenses commercial recreation and tour activities and commercial film and photography in national parks and reserves:

Benefits for visitors

NPWS has a legislative commitment to provide appropriate facilities in its parks and reserves for the enjoyment, education and recreation of its many visitors. These facilities are often operated by NPWS, but in some circumstances they can be managed more effectively, efficiently or flexibly by the private sector. The concessions system helps to ensure that these commercial services and facilities are appropriate, of a suitable standard and do not conflict with other activities or visitor enjoyment.

Benefits for park management

The primary purpose of OEH is to protect and conserve natural and cultural heritage in the NSW landscape. The offering of visitor opportunities by OEH ensures that activities operated by the private sector are compatible with its conservation objectives. It also provides OEH with additional valuable resources and income to fund ongoing conservation programs.

Benefits for the private sector

An agreement in the form of a lease, licence, permit or consent gives you:

  • A legal right to carry out your proposed activity
  • A formal relationship between you and OEH so that both parties are aware of their responsibilities and obligations
  • Security of tenure for the term of your concession, provided you comply with its conditions.

Information and advice

If you think you might be interested in a potential commercial or business relationship, a little bit of homework will save you time, effort and money in understanding whether OEH can accommodate your proposal. The essential prerequisite is that it must be

Your first step is to check the plan of management, or where no plan currently exists, discuss your proposal with local OEH staff. Either way, it's important to speak to the NPWS office nearest to the park or area before you commit resources to your proposal.

You can also email commercial.enquiries@environment.nsw.gov.au.

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Page last updated: 13 May 2014