Visitor accommodation policy

Park users can stay overnight in some parks. Overnight stays may also be allowed for people helping to manage the park or undertaking research.

The Jenolan Caves precinct is one of Australia’s most unique environmental and heritage sitesThe National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) permits accommodation in parks for some purposes.

Visitor accommodation can help increase visitation to parks and enhance visitor experiences of parks. It can take the form of camping facilities, historic buildings and tourist parks.

The facilities that can be provided vary by location, but accommodation should always meet high environmental standards and be appropriate to its natural and cultural setting.

Policy

1. A range of visitor accommodation will be provided across the park system.

2. Visitor accommodation (and ancillary facilities) must:

  • be consistent with the relevant park Plan of Management (PoM) or Statement of Interim Management Intent (SIMI), and park management policies
  • ensure natural and cultural values are protected
  • minimise environmental impacts at the site and in the surrounding area
  • minimise impacts on other park users
  • be appropriately low-key and suitable for the location, and meet high sustainability standards (see the Sustainability Guidelines).
  • create opportunities to enhance visitor understanding, enjoyment and appreciation of park values.

3. The park authority will seek to offer unique visitor accommodation experiences that will allow visitors to enjoy and experience the natural and cultural values of parks.

4. Visitor accommodation may be developed and managed either by the park authority or by private-sector partners.

5. The park authority will provide a range of accommodation opportunities across the park system to cater for a broad range of visitor interests and comfort levels, and for people from different demographic and socio-economic backgrounds, and with different levels of physical ability.

6. Acceptable options for visitor accommodation include:

  • built accommodation (new and adaptive reuse)
  • semi-permanent accommodation (for example, safari-style tents based on a hard frame)
  • caravans and campervans
  • camping.

7. Where a visitor precinct contains visitor accommodation, public access may need to be restricted to areas around that accommodation for the purposes of safety, security or operational requirements. For example, access to a fenced area around accommodation may be restricted to paying guests only, while other visitors may access the broader precinct.

8. Proposals to build, own or operate visitor accommodation in parks will be considered on the merits of each case, based on a business plan and commercial assessment of each proposal (including, but not limited to, financial viability, financial return to government and benefits to the park and the community).

9. Visitor accommodation, other than camping, may be occupied for a continuous period of no more than 21 days, unless otherwise specified in the relevant PoM or as permitted under a lease or licence, where the limit may be for a continuous period of up to 3 months. The only exceptions to this are where:

  • staff or caretakers must reside on-site for the management of the accommodation facility

or

Timeframes for camping are set out in the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009 (NPW Regulation).

10. Visitor accommodation is permissible in parks where it is consistent with the objects and management principles of the NPW Act and the Wilderness Act 1987 and, for new buildings, where it is identified in the relevant park’s Plan of Management.

11. In wilderness areas self-reliant camping and the use of existing buildings or structures (such as huts) is the only form of visitor accommodation permissible. Moveable dwellings such as caravans and motorised vehicles are not permitted.

12. In nature reserves visitor accommodation is only permissible where it is consistent with the management principles for nature reserves, for example accommodation relating to a research activity or field studies centre. Provision for sustainable visitor or tourist use and enjoyment is not a management principle for nature reserves, therefore accommodation for the primary purpose of tourism is not permissible.

13. Fees and charges may reflect the benefits the accommodation provides to park management, conservation outcomes or improving equity of access. For example, fees may be reduced if accommodation providers contribute to park management through the maintenance of park facilities.

14. The NPW Act requires that, where a lease or licence for visitor accommodation is proposed under section 151(1)(b) that authorises the erection of a new building or structure, the general location and purpose for which the lease or licence is to be granted must be identified in the relevant Plan of Management.

15. The Park Visitor Facilities Policy (located in the Park Management Policy Manual) requires the preparation of a site/precinct plan for new visitor accommodation or the significant expansion of existing visitor accommodation. This plan must address the planning, design and construction of the accommodation and associated park facilities in that location.

16. Visitor accommodation in a park (other than camping facilities) may be approved by either a lease or a licence under the NPW Act. Proposals will be assessed via:

  • an appropriate level of environmental assessment; for example, a conservation risk assessment (CRA), review of environmental factors (REF) or environmental impact statement (EIS)
  • a sustainability assessment to address the Sustainability Assessment Criteria.

17. The Sustainability Guidelines provide more information on the assessment process. All aspects of the proposal, including any public submissions, will be considered in a REF determination report prepared by the park authority. If the REF is successfully determined, the REF determination report will be provided to the Minister to meet the requirements of section 151B(2) of the NPW Act.

18. Although not required to by the NPW Act, the park authority will adopt and apply the Sustainability Guidelines when developing or providing any visitor accommodation facilities. 

6. Tourist-park-style accommodation will provide for an appropriate mix of caravan, cabin and camping options, including larger individual sites able to accommodate moveable dwellings, where this is appropriate to the site and the standard of access to the area.

7. It is preferable to locate any new tourist-park-style accommodation where there are services and facilities of an appropriate kind and standard (for example, mains power, water, sewerage and vehicle access).

8. Permanent occupancy of sites within tourist parks will not be allowed. Where leased or licensed (that is, privately owned) occupancies of sites are inherited in newly created parks, these will be phased out when the existing interests expire.

To protect the park environment and the experience of other park users, the following actions may be undertaken to manage camping:

  • the number of camping sites or availability of remote (‘bush’) camping may be limited
  • camping sites may be rotated or rested to allow areas to rehabilitate
  • bookings may be required to occupy sites
  • permits may be required for remote camping. 

23. Occupancy of snowfield accommodation (commercial lodges, hotels and subleased apartments) is permitted only:

24. In special circumstances an exemption may be granted to the six-week limit on occupancy, to optimise the availability of visitor snowfield accommodation.

Any request for an exemption to the visitor accommodation policy must be made in writing to NPWS Executive Director Park Programs or Executive Director Park Operations, and will be considered only where:

  • bona-fide on-site managers and/or staff occupy the accommodation for purposes associated with the actual management of the accommodation and where a full-time presence is essential
  • the proposal is a bona-fide time-sharing arrangement or similar scheme that satisfies the objectives of this policy
  • the proposed occupancy is consistent with existing lease agreements.

25. In the case of sublet apartments, except where existing lease conditions prevail:

  • OEH requires that all sublet apartments be subject to a management agreement approved by OEH
  • lessees and sub-lessees must ensure that the premises are available to the general public for no less than 10 weeks in any snow season.

26. Any planning instrument that applies from time to time, together with the Plan of Management, will govern planning issues in these areas.

27. OEH may limit the overall number of beds that may be available for individual subleasing in apartment developments or conversion of commercial premises, to preserve a suitable range of accommodation types in the resorts. This may be an overall limit or different limits may be applied to different resorts.

28. Proposals involving the conversion of existing commercial lodge premises to ski-club or syndicate-group usage, or other restrictive accommodation schemes, will be considered only where it is:

  • permitted under existing leases
  • permissible under the NPW Act
  • in Perisher Valley, and the lodge is located further than one kilometre by existing roads from the Perisher Valley Skitube Terminal.

29. OEH will continue to encourage ski clubs to make spare accommodation available to the general public and will maintain its requirements to meet minimum membership numbers.

30. OEH will continue to monitor lessees to ensure that approved accommodation limits are not exceeded, to:

  • keep occupation compliant with Plan of Management and lease conditions
  • maintain the comfort and safety of accommodation offered to park visitors.

31. OEH will employ various methods to monitor lessees’ compliance with the accommodation limits set out in their leases. These methods will include:

  • programmed inspections of premises and sublet apartments
  • lessees being required to maintain OEH-approved accommodation registers that provide details of guests, management and staff staying overnight in the premises
  • placing signs to notify guests, staff and management of accommodation limits
  • annual confirmation, by lessees and sub-lessees, of the accommodation limit of premises and/or subleased apartments, in a way that conforms with the OEH Review of Environmental Factors Guidelines and Sustainability Assessment Criteria and Sustainability Guidelines.

Policy adopted 24 May 2017

Scope and application

The policy applies to all lands acquired or reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Definitions and abbreviations

Accommodation is any area dedicated to an overnight stay and includes:

  • remote bush camping with no infrastructure
  • accommodation without utilities except toilets and basic shelters
  • accommodation with remotely provided utilities such as solar power, portable gas, water tanks and on-site sewage treatment
  • accommodation with site connections to mains power, water and sewerage.

CRA means Conservation Risk Assessment, which is the assessment of environmental impacts conducted when no Review of Environmental Factors (REF) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required.

Minister means the Minister or his/her delegate.

Park authority means the body responsible for care control and management of a park, as defined in the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009.

Park facilities means the infrastructure used by visitors, such as walking tracks, toilets, shelters, furniture and barbecues.

PoM means a Plan of Management in relation to land reserved under the NPW Act, prepared under section 72 of the NPW Act.

Precinct means a definable area of a park that provides or is to provide park facilities for visitor use.

REF means Review of Environmental Factors, which is an assessment of environmental impacts under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

SIMI means a Statement of Interim Management Intent, which may be prepared in accord with the Managing parks prior to a plan of management policy as an interim park management plan when a plan of management (PoM) is yet to be developed.

Sustainability Assessment Criteria means the criteria, adopted by the Director-General under section 151B(3) of the NPW Act, that the Minister must have regard to prior to granting a lease or licence for visitor accommodation.

Sustainability Guidelines means the Sustainability Guidelines.

Tourist park means a visitor-accommodation precinct that generally includes cabin, caravan, motor-home and camping accommodation.

Visitor accommodation means places where visitors reside temporarily, and includes tents, caravans, cabins, vehicles, trailers, moveable dwellings, camping areas and tourist parks, as well as buildings such as huts, homesteads, lodges and historic buildings.

Snowfield accommodation means visitor accommodation in the Perisher Range resort areas of the Kosciusko National Park. Visitor accommodation in the resort areas comprises hotels, commercial lodges and managed apartments, ski clubs lodges and subleased apartments.

Accountabilities

Accountabilities under this policy are in accordance with the delegation of the Minister and Director-General’s functions under the NPW Act and National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009.

Written requests for an exemption to this policy should be made to the Executive Director Park Programs or Executive Director Park Operations, National Parks and Wildlife Service.