Review of State Conservation Areas

Report of the first five-year review of State Conservation Areas under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974

The state conservation area (SCA) is a category of reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (the NPW Act). SCAs protect natural and cultural heritage values and provide recreational opportunities. However, unlike other reserves such as national parks and nature reserves, they also provide for other uses including mineral exploration and mining, and petroleum exploration and production. SCA is the only reserve category that allows for exploration and mining.

1 November 2008
Department of Environment and Climate Change
Publication, Report
  • ISBN 978-1-74122-981-3
  • ID DECC20080516
  • File PDF 6MB
  • Pages 282
  • Name review-state-conservation-areas-first-five-year-review-080516.pdf

Because SCAs provide for these dual uses, they form an important category in the public reserve system. SCAs provide an opportunity for lands to be included in the national parks system that, because of their mineral interests, might otherwise not have been available for active conservation management and public appreciation and enjoyment.

SCAs were introduced as a reserve category under the NPW Act in 2002. This amendment also changed all existing state recreation areas (SRAs) to SCAs. SRAs allowed for mining and mineral exploration, yet many were established for recreation purposes only and have no mineral values.

A new class of reserve, called a community conservation area (CCA), was also created in 2005. A CCA is divided into four zones, with zone 3 being the equivalent of an SCA. CCAs are therefore included in this review. Of the 127 reserves that are considered to be SCAs for the purposes of this review, 19 are classified as CCA Zone 3 SCAs.

The intention of the SCA category is to reserve lands ‘only where conservation values and mineral values do not allow for reservation under any other reserve category, such as national park or nature reserve’ (Minister for the Environment, Second Reading Speech, December 2001).

As at 2 October 2007, there were 127 SCAs (including parts of the Brigalow and Nandewar CCA that are zoned 3), covering about 619,149 hectares, or 9.3% of the public reserve network in NSW. They protect natural and cultural heritage values in landscapes ranging from coastal scrub and rainforest to rangelands, and may include habitat for threatened species or significant Aboriginal sites. Of all the reserve categories under the NPW Act, SCAs are making up an increasingly higher proportion of new reservations: over 100 of the SCAs have been created after the category was introduced in October 2002.

These new reserves are often additions to existing reserves and may have been previously State forests, Crown land or private land. Many SCAs were created as a result of the NSW Government’s regional forest agreements which, among other things, identified high conservation value forests. These agreements were based on the findings of comprehensive regional assessments. Each reservation of an SCA follows the finding by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) that the area’s mineral values warrant its reservation as a dual-purpose reserve.

Of the 127 SCAs reviewed, 99 have exploration and/or mining titles applying to them and are therefore prevented from being reserved as national parks or nature reserves under the SCA provisions of the NPW Act. It is anticipated that the number of SCAs to be reserved as national parks or nature reserves will initially be low and then increase over time as more SCAs are explored, information is improved and further reviews are conducted.

Some reserves, including SCAs and other reserves under the NPW Act, have a depth restriction, which means that the land is reserved only to a certain depth, as specified in the NSW Government Gazette. Any exploration and mining activity below that depth would not be subject to the NPW Act, but would be subject to other relevant environmental legislation.