Wildlife licensing reforms

The way we regulate wildlife management activities in New South Wales is changing.

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 establishes a new approach to regulating human interactions with native animals and plants.

The Biodiversity Conservation Act commenced on 25 August 2017 as part of a package of land management and biodiversity conservation reforms.

One purpose of the Act is to apply a risk-based approach to regulating interactions with wildlife. This will reduce administrative burdens, modernise and streamline regulation.

Applying this risk-based approach means some previously licensed low-risk activities will no longer require a biodiversity conservation licence. Instead, an enforceable code of practice will regulate these activities.

Activities involving varying levels of greater risk will still be managed and assessed under a biodiversity conservation licence.

Biodiversity Conservation Act

The Biodiversity Conservation 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, it is an offence to:

  • harm, capture or kill protected animals
  • pick protected plants
  • damage threatened ecological communities, habitats of threatened species and areas of outstanding biodiversity value
  • liberate an animal to the wild
  • approach or interfere with marine mammals.

These offences do not apply to activities that are:

  • authorised under other legislation
  • authorised under a biodiversity conservation licence
  • undertaken in accordance with an approved Biodiversity Conservation Act code of practice
  • exempted under the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017.
Crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans elegans)

Public consultation

The draft Dealing in protected birds code of practice was placed public exhibition from 31 May to 30 June 2024. Currently, this draft code includes 2 species, these bird species are proposed to be included in the code of practice. You cannot keep either of these birds without a licence until the code is finalised and they are deemed code regulated species.

We invite you to read all the associated documentation on the code of practice.

Any draft codes of practice produced, will be placed on public exhibition to allow the public to have their say on the content before the code is finalised.

The first code of practice, the Protected animal specimen code of practice has been made by the Minister. Information regarding this code can be found on our protected animal specimens code of practice information page.

Taxidermy short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) on display at Royal National Park Visitor Information Centre

Risk-based approach to regulating human-wildlife activities

Under the risk-based approach to regulating wildlife, some activities will not require a biodiversity conservation licence and may be carried out in line with an enforceable code of practice. The code of practice will require record keeping and registration.

Until a code of practice is adopted, all wildlife activities currently requiring a licence remain in place.

Codes of practice deliver significant benefits, including:

  • reducing administration burden for lower-risk human-wildlife interactions, both for the people of New South Wales and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water
  • enabling the department to concentrate enforcement efforts and better regulate higher-risk activities.

Under the Biodiversity Conservation Act, the department administers over 30 classes of 'biodiversity conservation licences' to regulate interactions between humans and native animals and plants.

Wildlife licence classes cover a diverse range of activities, including:

  • activities that impact threatened species and threatened ecological communities
  • harvesting and trade in native animals and plants
  • managing native animals that pose threats to safety and property
  • keeping and dealing in native animals as pets
  • protected animal specimens (taxidermy)
  • scientific, conservation, and educational activities involving native animals and plants
  • the rehabilitation of sick, injured and orphaned native animals.

All wildlife licence classes are being reviewed to assist with implementing the risk-based approach to regulating human-wildlife activities under the Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The review will also consider options to streamline licence administration. Some aspects and changes of the licensing reform will not be implemented until a new licensing system is in place. This is expected to occur in 2024.

Activities that involve varying levels of increased risk will continue to be managed and assessed under a biodiversity conservation licence.

These activities require licensing to effectively manage conservation threats and harm to wildlife populations, animal welfare, and human health and safety.

Record keeping requirements apply for licensed activities.

The Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 has retained existing exemptions for:

  • mitigating damage to crops by native birds
  • the keeping and dealing in 41 species of captively-bred native birds, for example, various parrot species and budgerigars – these birds will remain exempt from the requirement to hold an animal keeper licence and codes of practice regulation.

While animal keeper licence conditions allow dealing between licensed keepers, conducting dealings as a business is only permitted under animal dealer licences.

To implement a risk-based approach to regulating native animal dealing, we may consider introducing a new licence class for dealing in high volumes of native animals to address concerns about the increase in dealing by online and home-based businesses.

A scientific licence is a class of biodiversity conservation licence granted under the Biodiversity Conservation Act for research, conservation or education. It can include ecological surveys, academic research involving native plants and animals, bush regeneration activities impacting threatened species or keeping a protected native animal in a school.

To implement a risk-based approach, most activities licensable under a scientific licence are proposed to be retained, including research, translocations and ecological surveying.

A code of practice may be implemented for certain low-risk activities such as bush regeneration.

Before implementing changes to existing wildlife licence classes, the department will notify relevant licensees and applicants beforehand if they:

  • have applied but no longer need a licence
  • currently have a licence but may be eligible to transition to a code of practice.