Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Types of protected areas

Parks, reserves, conservation areas, wilderness, Aboriginal and heritage places, wildlife refuges, wild rivers and private landholdings.

Find out about the various types of areas listed because of their natural and/or heritage values. These areas have local, state, national or even international signficance.

  • National parks
    National parks are large areas of public land set aside for native plants, animals and the places in which they live. National parks protect places of natural beauty. They also protect places important to Aboriginal people, and places that show how people lived in the past.
  • Nature reserves
    Nature reserves are areas of land in predominantly untouched, natural condition, with high conservation value. Their primary purpose is to protect and conserve their outstanding, unique or representative ecosystems and Australian native plants and animals.
  • Regional parks
    Regional parks are lands reserved to protect and conserve areas in natural or modified landscapes. They’re also suitable for sustainable public recreation and enjoyment. Regional parks offer open spaces for cultural and recreational activities (including dog walking in some parks) which may not be permitted in national parks, state conservation areas or nature reserves.
  • State conservation areas
    State conservation areas are lands reserved to protect and conserve significant or representative ecosystems, landforms, natural phenomena or places of cultural significance. They provide opportunities for sustainable visitation, public enjoyment, and research.
  • Wilderness
    Wilderness is used to describe large, natural areas of land that, together with their native plant and animal communities, remain essentially unchanged by modern human activity. Wilderness areas represent the largest, most pristine areas in the state's reserve system. They are managed so that native plant and animal communities are disturbed as little as possible.
  • Aboriginal places and areas
    Aboriginal Places are a way of legally recognising Aboriginal cultural heritage on public and private lands to protect ceremonial and spiritual values and areas containing objects such as middens, burials, reburials, Bora rings and rock art. An area can have historical, educational or other significance or could have been used for its natural resources. These places are important to Aboriginal people for social and commemorative reasons.
  • Heritage places
    Heritage consists of those places and objects that we have inherited from past generations and want to pass on to future generations. NSW has a diverse heritage that includes buildings, gardens, landscapes, archaeological sites, monuments, moveable heritage and shipwrecks.
  • Wild Rivers
    Wild rivers are rivers that are in near-pristine condition in terms of animal and plant life and water flow, and are free of the unnatural rates of siltation or bank erosion that affect many of Australia's waterways. In NSW, wild rivers are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.
  • Marine parks
    Marine protected areas are parts of the NSW marine estate managed to conserve marine biodiversity and support marine science, recreation and education. The NSW system of marine protected areas encompasses six multiple use marine parks (which cover an area of approximately 345,100 hectares), 12 aquatic reserves and 62 national parks and reserves with marine components.
  • Aquatic reserves
    Aquatic reserves were established to protect biodiversity and provide representative samples of our wonderfully varied marine life and habitats. Many of the 12 aquatic reserves in NSW have been in place for over 30 years. You can enjoy a range of marine activities such as boating, scuba diving, snorkelling and swimming in aquatic reserves. The kinds of fishing activities that are allowed in an aquatic reserve depend on the biodiversity values of the individual reserve and include NSW fishing rules and regulations such as fishing closures, bag limits and size limits.
  • Green List
    The International Union for the Conservation of Nature Green List of Protected Areas is a global initiative to encourage, measure, celebrate and share the success of protected area excellence. Australia currently has three NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service reserves accepted to the Green List.
  • World Heritage List
    The globally recognised United Nations World Heritage List contains some of the most important examples of natural and cultural heritage in the world. More than 800 precious places are on the list worldwide, from the Great Barrier Reef to the pyramids of Egypt.
  • National Heritage List
    The National Heritage List protects places with outstanding natural, Indigenous or historic heritage value to Australia.
  • Private land under conservation agreement
    The Conservation Partners Program supports landholders in voluntarily protecting and managing native vegetation, wildlife habitat, geological features, historic heritage and Aboriginal cultural heritage on their properties. A conservation agreement is a joint agreement between landholders and the NSW Minister for the Environment. The agreement provides permanent protection for the special features of your land. The area under the agreement is registered on the title of the land, ensuring that, if the land is sold, the agreement and management requirements remain in place. Landholders can choose from a range of protection options which recognise and formalise their commitment to conservation on their properties.
  • Wildlife refuges
    The Wildlife Refuges scheme has existed since 1948 and is one of the longest-running schemes in Australia that supports conservation on private and public land. Making your property a wildlife refuge is one way you can protect and conserve wildlife on your property and aid the conservation of our unique native plants and animals. Wildlife refuges may contain remnant native vegetation as well as habitat provided by wildlife corridors, windbreaks, woodlots or farm dams.

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Page last updated: 02 November 2015