Aboriginal heritage impact permits

We issue Aboriginal heritage impact permits where harm to an Aboriginal Place or object cannot be avoided.

An Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit (AHIP) is the legal instrument the Department issues under Part 6 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act). Section 90 relates specifically to AHIPs.

Harm to Aboriginal objects and declared Aboriginal Places should be avoided. When harm cannot be avoided because of planned activity at the site, an AHIP will need to be applied for and granted before the activity can take place.

Public register of AHIPs

Will your activity cause harm?

Follow these steps to determine whether your proposed activity will harm Aboriginal cultural heritage.

The Due Diligence Code of Practice for the Protection of Aboriginal Objects in New South Wales (Due Diligence Code of Practice) can be used by individuals or organisations who intend to undertake activities that could harm Aboriginal objects.

Due diligence is not mandatory and is not required in all circumstances. 

Our Due Diligence Code of Practice provides a process you can follow to determine whether:

  • Aboriginal objects are present in an area
  • Aboriginal objects will be harmed by an activity
  • further investigation is warranted
  • the activity requires an AHIP application.

If Aboriginal objects are present in the area of your proposed activity, you must conduct an Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment of the area.

Following the Due Diligence Code of Practice can provide a legal defence against prosecution for harming Aboriginal objects if, after following due diligence, it was determined Aboriginal objects were unlikely to be present.

Due diligence cannot be used in a number of circumstances. For example, it cannot be used in Aboriginal Places, or to support planning proposals and major projects. In these instances, and if Aboriginal objects are present in the area of your proposed activity, you must conduct an Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment.

The investigation and assessment of Aboriginal cultural heritage is undertaken to:

  • identify whether Aboriginal cultural values and objects are present
  • assess the nature and extent Aboriginal cultural values and objects
  • assess the harm a proposed activity may cause to Aboriginal objects and declared Aboriginal Places.

This process provides a way to clearly identify the harm that your activities will cause, what is avoidable and what is not.

An Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment report:

  • details the results of your investigation and assessment
  • includes recommended actions to be taken before, during and after an activity to manage and protect any Aboriginal objects and declared Aboriginal Places that have been identified
  • provides support for an AHIP application where harm cannot be avoided
  • needs to meet the requirements of the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009.

The Guide to Investigating, Assessing and Reporting on Aboriginal Cultural Heritage in New South Wales describes the process to follow and our requirements for Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment reports.

The Code of Practice for Archaeological Investigation in NSW (the Code) was developed to support the process of investigating and assessing Aboriginal cultural heritage. It sets out minimum standards for archaeological investigations in NSW where an application for an AHIP is likely to be made.

Excavations that can be carried out in accordance with the Code will not need an AHIP. The Code describes what is required when undertaking test excavation as a part of an archaeological investigation without an AHIP. If test excavations comply with methods set out in the Code, the testing is excluded from the definition of harm.

Excavations not consistent with the Code, or in areas where the Code does not apply, will need an AHIP. This will provide a defence to prosecution for harm to Aboriginal objects or places.

The department acknowledges and respects the rights of Aboriginal people to determine the cultural significance of their heritage. We require AHIP applicants to consult with Aboriginal people who hold cultural knowledge that will help to determine the cultural significance of Aboriginal objects and/or places in a proposed project area. This is in accordance with requirements under section 80C of the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009.

The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Consultation Requirements for Proponents outlines how to consult with Aboriginal people. These requirements:

  • apply to all activities throughout NSW that have the potential to harm Aboriginal objects or places and that require an AHIP
  • support other departmental policies and procedures that guide AHIP proponents in determining harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage.

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Due Diligence Code of Practice for the Protection of Aboriginal Objects in New South Wales

This code of practice sets out a process for individuals and organisations to follow to determine whether an Aboriginal object will be harmed by an activity, whether further investigation is needed, and whether the application to harm requires an Aboriginal heritage impact permit. A key step in the due diligence process is to check for Aboriginal sites on the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System.

PDF 1.1MB

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Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Consultation Requirements for Proponents 2010

Consultation with Aboriginal people is a fundamental part of the Aboriginal heritage impact permit assessment process. This document sets out requirements to consult with Aboriginal people who hold knowledge about the significance of Aboriginal cultural heritage relevant to an application.

PDF 4MB