Culture and heritage

Information on Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permits (AHIPs)

An AHIP can be issued by the Chief Executive of the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) under Part 6 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) where harm to an Aboriginal object or Aboriginal place cannot be avoided. The changes allow AHIPs to be transferred, varied, surrendered, revoked or suspended.

New provisions and transitional arrangements

On 1 October 2010, new provisions in the NPW Act relating to Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permits (AHIPs) commenced.

How did AHIPs change?

Before the changes to the NPW Act, two permits were needed for the majority of activities involving Aboriginal objects and Aboriginal places: one for the potential impact of the initial excavation type work (section 87) and a second for the impact on known (and likely) objects due to the activity itself, such as disturbance from earthworks (section 90). A single permit can now be issued in relation to Aboriginal objects and Aboriginal places, or types or classes of Aboriginal objects and Aboriginal places (new section 90).

The changes to the NPW Act were complemented by the Code of Practice for Archaeological Investigation of Aboriginal Objects in NSW that set out the requirements for archaeological investigation in NSW where an application for an AHIP is likely to be made.

Any excavation that can be carried out in accordance with the Code will not need an AHIP.  However, excavations that are not consistent with the Code, or are in areas where the Code does not apply, will need an AHIP in order to have a defence to a prosecution for any harm to Aboriginal objects or Aboriginal places.

What if I have a permit that was granted before 1 October 2010?

If a person has an AHIP that was issued before 1 October 2010, it automatically becomes an AHIP under the new system and the permit holder must continue to comply with the conditions of that AHIP.

The changed requirements under the Act also apply to the AHIP holder including the new offences, defences and exemptions. For further information see:

Under the revised system an AHIP holder can apply to the Chief Executive of OEH to transfer, vary or surrender their AHIP. There are new forms that must be used, as outlined below.

If I have started to prepare an application using the old form, can I still submit my application?

No. OEH accepted applications for a new AHIP on the old form up until 1 November 2010. Applicants must use the current application form.

Applying for an AHIP

Under the NPW Act, a person can apply for an AHIP as a defence to a prosecution for harming Aboriginal objects or Aboriginal places. The AHIP will be a defence provided that:

  1. the harm was authorised by the AHIP, and
  2. the conditions of that AHIP were not contravened.

You should apply for an AHIP if your proposed activity will – directly or indirectly – harm an Aboriginal object or a declared Aboriginal place.

There are a number of circumstances in which you may not need to apply for an AHIP and you can proceed with caution.

When would an AHIP not be required?

You may not require an AHIP to harm an Aboriginal object or Aboriginal place if your activity: *

  • was authorised by or under the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989
  • was authorised by or under the Rural Fires Act 1997 in relation to any emergency fire fighting act or bushfire hazard reduction work
  • was required or permitted under a conservation agreement entered into under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974
  • was required for the conservation or protection of an Aboriginal object or Aboriginal place and was carried out by an OEH officer or a person under the direction of that officer, or
  • occurred while an Aboriginal person was undertaking a traditional cultural activity (not a commercial activity).

You may not require an AHIP (the following is applicable to Aboriginal objects only, not Aboriginal places): *

  • for harm to Aboriginal objects if you are undertaking test excavation in accordance with the Code of Practice for Archaeological Investigation in NSW, or
  • if you have undertaken due diligence in accordance with Due Diligence Code of Practice for the Protection of Aboriginal Objects in NSW or industry-specific codes of practice adopted under the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009 and determined that Aboriginal objects are not present or are unlikely to be present and an activity will not harm those objects.

* However, please check the NPW Act and Regulation to ensure the legislation has not changed in regard to the requirements listed above.

How do I apply for an AHIP?

Any person wishing to apply for an AHIP must refer to Applying for an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit: Guide for applicants.

For a summary of the steps involved in applying for an AHIP under s.90 of the NPW Act, see Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit applications.

Are there application fees for AHIP applications and how much does it cost?

AHIP application fees

Section 90A application for an AHIP fee

  • work to an owner-occupied dwelling costing up to $100,000 = $80
  • other work costing up to $100,000 = $133
  • work between $100,000 and $250,000 = $200
  • work between $250,000 and $500,000 = $332
  • work between $500,000 and $1 million = $532
  • work between $1 million and $2 million = $997
  • work between $2 million and $5 million = $1,330
  • work over $5 million = $2,660

Other fees

  • Section 90B application for the transfer of an AHIP = $80
  • Section 90H application for the surrender of an AHIP = $80
  • Section 90D application for the variation of an AHIP
    • Minor changes including time frames, typographical errors = $80
    • All other variations = $400

Processing fees are exempt from GST by the Commonwealth Treasurer's Division 81 determination under A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999.

Can AHIPs be transferred and what is the process for transferring them?

Yes. A person can apply to OEH to transfer an AHIP to another person. The current AHIP holder must consent to the transfer in writing, which is done by signing the AHIP Transfer Application form.

Can AHIPs be varied and what is the process for varying them?

Yes. A variation includes the substitution, omission or amendment of an existing condition, or attaching a new condition to an AHIP. Depending on the nature and breadth of the variation, consultation may be required.

Can I surrender my AHIP?

Yes. An AHIP holder can apply in writing to OEH to surrender their AHIP. However, it is only effective after it has been approved by OEH. There is no refund of fees where an AHIP is surrendered.

Can my AHIP be suspended or revoked?

Yes. An AHIP can be suspended or revoked by OEH.

OEH’s regulatory policies

OEH regulatory staff use the following internal policy documents to assist them in regulating impacts on Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Note: These documents are intended as internal OEH policy documents only and should not be used for any other purpose.

More information

OEH regional offices

Metropolitan

Parramatta
Office of Environment and Heritage NSW
Planning and Aboriginal Heritage Section
PO Box 668
Parramatta NSW 2124
Phone: (02) 9995 5000
Fax: (02) 9995 6900

North East

Coffs Harbour
Office of Environment and Heritage NSW
Planning and Aboriginal Heritage Section
Locked Bag 914
Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
Phone: (02) 6651 5946
Fax: (02) 6651 6187

North West

Dubbo
Office of Environment and Heritage NSW
Environment and Conservation Programs
PO Box 2111
Dubbo NSW 2830
Phone: (02) 6883 5330
Fax: (02) 6884 9382

South

Queanbeyan
Office of Environment and Heritage NSW
Landscape and Aboriginal Heritage Protection Section
PO Box 733
Queanbeyan  NSW 2620
Phone: (02) 6229 7000
Fax: (02) 6229 7001

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Page last updated: 22 May 2013