Military training activities policy

Many military training activities are inconsistent with the purposes of national parks. Using national parks for these activities should be considered only when all other options have been exhausted.

Helicopter in silhouette viewed from the ground through tree topsNSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) recognises that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) needs to use natural landscapes for training activities. However, ADF training activities can be carried out in parks only if they have minimal impact on the environment and other park users.


  1. For the purposes of this policy, ADF training activities that may be carried out in parks are divided into two categories:
    • Outdoor training – this means physical activities such as climbing, canoeing, orienteering, patrolling and bushwalking. It does not involve ammunition or pyrotechnics.
    • Special forces training – this may involve climbing, airborne and waterborne activities. Weapons and ammunition may be carried but not discharged.
  1. Outdoor training is potentially acceptable in any national park or reserve in the state. Applications to carry it out will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  2. Special forces training is potentially acceptable in Kosciuszko National Park and Sydney Harbour National Park only. Applications to carry it out will be considered on a case-by-case basis. (Note: These parks have unique features and climatic conditions essential to special forces training.)
  3. Applications for ADF training activities in parks will be assessed and determined by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
  4. ADF training activities:
    • will not generally be permitted in nature reserves
    • will not be permitted at historic sites or in Aboriginal Areas.
  5. Any ADF training activities in wilderness areas must be carried out in accordance with the management principles of the Wilderness Act 1987.
  6. Any ADF training activities involving declared wild rivers or their catchments must be in accordance with the Wilderness Policy.
  7. Where a park plan of management or a statement of management intent exists, ADF training activities must accord with that plan.
  8. Training activities, particularly special forces training, may significantly affect the environment. NPWS will assess whether the training activities in question constitute an 'activity' under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, and follow relevant environment impact assessment procedures as necessary.
  1. Movement of land-based vehicles involved in ADF training activities must comply with the Vehicle Access Policy.
  2. Training activities may have various components (such as camping, walking and rafting). The National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2019 (NPW Regulation) contains provisions that relate to some of these individual activities, and these provisions must be adhered to. These individual activities may also be subject to specific NPWS park management policies.
  3. As far as possible, noise from training activities is to be minimised so that it is not 'likely to interfere with or cause a nuisance to any person or animal' in the park (clause 15, NPW Regulation). Where this is not possible, consent from NPWS is required under the NPW Regulation.
  4. The killing or trapping of wildlife and destruction of vegetation will not be permitted as a part of ADF training activities in parks.
  5. The carrying of firearms:
    • is not permitted as a part of outdoor training activities
    • may be permitted for special forces training, but requires consent from NPWS under the NPW Regulation.
    The carrying of ammunition is allowed for special forces training and requires consent from NPWS under the NPW Regulation. The discharge of firearms is not permitted for any military training activities on park. The NPWS Firearms Management Manual (internal document available to staff) does not apply to defence personnel.
  6. NPWS will not close roads or erect barriers to exclude the public from areas to allow ADF training activities to occur. ADF training activities in parks must not restrict, displace or prevent park visitors' recreational activities for an unreasonable length of time.
  7. Some parts of parks are used or occupied by the ADF as a result of an existing interest inherited by NPWS at the time of reservation. Where this use exceeds the provisions of this policy, NPWS will negotiate with the ADF to establish a timeframe in which activities will become subject to this policy.
  8. NPWS supports and encourages help from the ADF to carry out, on a volunteer basis, management tasks that can be of mutual benefit to both NPWS and the ADF. These tasks should be undertaken as military activities and not as volunteer activities.
  1. The NPWS Branch Director should monitor the location, type, scale and frequency of any ADF training activities in parks. A yearly limit should be applied to the number of training activities in an area if the ADF applies repeatedly to use the area and its activities are causing unacceptable impact to the area or other park users.
  2. NPWS may observe training activities to monitor their impact.
  3. Bad weather and high fire risk can make it more likely that training activities will damage the park environment. NPWS reserves the right to cancel activities at short notice.
  4. The ADF will be liable for any restoration or repair of any damage that occurs to land and facilities, and for any injury to, or caused by, equipment or persons participating in a military activity in parks. Before commencing a training activity, the ADF must provide a written Indemnity and Release to NPWS, indemnifying NPWS against all injury, loss, damage, costs, expenses and so on, and releasing NPWS from all liability.

Assessment of applications

  1. When assessing an application to undertake ADF training in parks, NPWS should take into account whether:
    • other suitable areas outside parks were adequately considered
    • the proposed exercise is appropriate to the park category and the physical and natural conditions of the site
    • there are natural hazards on the site (for instance, unstable slopes)
    • the proposed exercise is compatible with current management activities (such as hazard reduction burning or research)
    • the proposed exercise conflicts with the conditions set out in any approved plan of management for the area.
  2. The impacts of the proposed exercise should also be assessed, by considering whether:
    • the site is being overused by repeated exercises or similar activities
    • the exercise is organised to reduce potential environmental damage to an acceptable level
    • the areas might be susceptible to damage under certain conditions (for example, after rain or bushfire)
    • impacts on flora and fauna are acceptable
    • there would be any adverse impacts on Aboriginal sites or sites of cultural significance
    • impacts on other park users, including visitors and lessees/licensees, are acceptable and minimised
    • appropriate measures will be taken to protect other park uses.
    NPWS should also ensure that:
    • the application includes an Australian Defence Force Environmental Clearance Certificate
    • NPWS notifies the ADF of any potential safety concerns in the area of intended operations.


  1. Consent for any activity must be in writing and subject to any conditions necessary to ensure conformity with a park plan of management, and to minimise environmental impacts and impacts on other park users. Conditions may be imposed relating to:
    • location
    • duration
    • number of participants
    • vehicle usage and type
    • waste management
    • use of fires
    • other factors.
    The consent may be issued by the NPWS Branch Director by letter, with or without conditions. For more complex proposals, legal assistance may be required to prepare the consent.
  2. Consent may be granted for a fixed number of identified activities to occur in an area for 12 months. The continuation of the consent will be subject to, and not guaranteed by, the ADF continuing to meet all consent conditions.
  3. All communication with the ADF concerning applications to undertake training in the parks will be made through the Defence Plaza in Sydney.

Fees and charges

  1. A fee will apply to all applications to undertake ADF training activities in parks. The fee will include a cost-recovery component for work undertaken by NPWS in assessing applications and preparing consents, in addition to any existing park entry and camping fees.
  2. NPWS may change the fee structure from time to time and notify the ADF accordingly.
  3. NPWS may negotiate with the ADF regarding the provision of park management work instead of payment of fees (see clause 17 of this policy).

Policy adopted September 1997
Policy last updated June 2021

Scope and application

This policy applies to all lands acquired or reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) except for lands reserved under Part 4A of the Act (unless the Board of Management for those lands has adopted the policy). However, NPWS staff can use the policy as guidance in their dealings with Boards of Management.

Note: Provisions in this policy may not be relevant where either:

  • existing interests under section 39 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (the NPW Act) apply
  • other legislation takes precedence (for example, Defence Force Regulations).

Legal advice may be required to confirm whether these apply to a particular military training proposal.


This policy has been created to:

  • establish a consistent process for responding to applications to undertake military training activities
  • establish a single point of contact in the ADF as the conduit for all applications to NPWS
  • ensure that the nature of appropriate activities is clearly communicated to the ADF
  • minimise the impact on the environment and on other users of parks that would result from ADF training activities
  • ensure that NPWS recovers all costs associated with ADF training activities in parks.


ADF means the Australian Defence Force.

Park means a reserve gazetted under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act), including a national park, nature reserve, historic site, Aboriginal area, state conservation area, karst conservation reserve, regional park or any land acquired by the Minister under Part 11 of the Act.