Visitor accommodation policy

Park visitors can stay overnight in some parks. Overnight stays may also be allowed for people helping to manage the park, doing research or for Aboriginal cultural purposes.

The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) permits accommodation in parks for some purposes.

Visitor accommodation can help increase visitation to parks, enhance visitor experiences of parks, and support the appropriate dispersal of visitation throughout the reserve system. It can take many forms including, but not limited to, camping facilities, historic or contemporary buildings, movable structures or caravans, and tourist parks.

Accommodation facilities will vary by location but must always meet high environmental standards and be appropriate to the natural and cultural setting. Information to ensure visitor accommodation is compatible with the protection of conservation values is available in the Sustainability Guidelines for visitor use and tourism in NSW national parks.

Policy

Options for visitor accommodation

  1. A range of visitor accommodation should be provided across the park system to cater for a broad range of interests and comfort levels, and for people from different demographic and socio-economic backgrounds, and with different levels of physical ability.
  2. Visitor accommodation (and ancillary facilities) must:
    • be consistent with the relevant park Plan of Management (PoM) or Statement of Management Intent, and park management policies
    • ensure natural and cultural values are protected
    • minimise environmental impacts at the site and in the surrounding area
    • take measures to mitigate impacts on other park users
    • be appropriately low-key and suitable for the location (see the Sustainability Guidelines)
    • meet high sustainability standards (see the Sustainability Guidelines)
    • create opportunities to enhance visitor understanding, enjoyment and appreciation of park values.
  3. National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) aims to offer visitor accommodation experiences that enable visitors to enjoy and experience the natural and cultural values of parks.
  4. Visitor accommodation may be developed and managed either by NPWS or partner organisations, including commercial operators.
  5. Typical options for visitor accommodation include:
    • built accommodation (new and adaptive reuse of existing buildings)
    • semi-permanent accommodation (for example, safari-style tents based on a hard frame or transportable 'pods')
    • caravan- and campervan-style accommodation
    • camping (including self-reliant camping and serviced camping options).
  6. New and innovative accommodation options may also be considered where these are consistent with the NPW Act, the relevant PoM or Statement of Management Intent, and this policy.
  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 booked guests only, while allowing other visitors to access the broader precinct.
  8. Proposals to build, own or operate visitor accommodation in parks will be considered on their merits taking into account environmental considerations, and a business plan and commercial assessment. This will include, but not be limited to, impacts and restrictions on existing visitation, financial viability, financial return to government and benefits to the park and the community.
  9. Visitor accommodation may be occupied (as specified in the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009) 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 restriction are either where:
    • staff or caretakers must reside on-site for the management of the accommodation facility
    • leased or licensed occupancies of caravans are inherited in newly created parks. The Holiday Parks (Long-Term Casual Occupation) Act 2002 sets out the maximum period of occupancy until the expiry of the existing interest.
  1. 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 the relevant park's PoM.
  2. In wilderness areas, self-reliant camping and the use of existing buildings or structures (such as huts) are the only form of visitor accommodation permissible. Moveable accommodation such as caravans are not permitted, as motorised vehicles are not permitted.
  3. In nature reserves, visitor accommodation is only permissible where it is consistent with the management principles for nature reserves (e.g. accommodation relating to a research activity, field studies centre or for Aboriginal cultural purposes).
  1. Fees and charges may be applied for the use of visitor accommodation facilities. Information on applicable fees and charges will be made publicly available.
  2. Where accommodation is provided by external organisations, appropriate rental or other payments or contributions to be paid by that organisation will be determined as part of the grant of any consent, licence, lease or other approval required under the NPW Act.
  1. If a visitor accommodation lease or licence authorising the erection of a new building or structure is proposed under section 151(1)(b) of the NPW Act, the general location and purpose of the lease or licence must be identified in the park's Plan of Management.
  2. The Park Visitor Facilities Policy 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.
  1. Proposals for new visitor accommodation in a park will be assessed via:
  2. The Sustainability Guidelines provide more information on the assessment process.
  3. Proposals by external proponents will require the grant of a lease or licence, following completion of relevant environmental and sustainability assessments, and any consultation required under the NPW Act.
    • Part 12 of the NPW Act sets out the types of visitor accommodation that may be granted a licence or lease, public consultation requirements and the role of the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council in providing advice to the Minister
  1. Tourist park accommodation should provide for an appropriate mix of caravan, cabin and camping options, including larger individual sites able to accommodate moveable accommodation, where this is appropriate to the site and the standard of access to the area.
  2. It is preferable to locate any new tourist park accommodation where there are services and facilities of an appropriate kind and standard (e.g. mains power, water, sewerage and vehicle access).
  3. Permanent occupancy of sites within tourist parks will not be allowed. Where privately leased or licensed occupancies of sites are inherited in newly created parks, these will be phased out when the existing interests expire.
  1. To protect the park environment and the experience of other park users, the following actions may be undertaken to manage camping activities:
    • 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.
  1. Serviced camping – also called 'glamping' – is an acceptable and permissible form of accommodation, unless otherwise stipulated by a PoM.
  2. Serviced camping typically involves the provision of tents, bedding, movable accommodation and other facilities at a camp site for a fee. It can also include food and other related services, such as tours and educational or cultural experiences.
  3. Serviced camping opportunities vary in style and scope. They can range from a private service booked by an individual camper (e.g. an overnight stay in a high-quality tent with bedding, where the tent is removed at the end of the stay), to ongoing semi-permanent options such as moveable accommodation or safari tents on purpose-built platforms or transportable 'pods'.
  4. Management arrangements for serviced camping vary and reflect the style and scope of the service offered. Smaller-scale operations (e.g. operators whose service is to simply provide tents for campers) may operate under a licence. Other operations may require a lease under the NPW Act and may be integrated with additional visitor opportunities, such as overnight or multi-day walks.
    • If a lease is proposed under section 151 of the NPW Act that would authorise the erection of a new building or structure, then it may be necessary to amend the PoM.
  5. NPWS will work with potential serviced camping providers to consider and investigate suitable options and arrangements. NPWS may also directly establish and manage serviced camping operations in priority locations.
  6. All serviced camping activities must be approved by NPWS. NPWS will work with operators to determine the appropriate level of assessment and approval required.
  7. NPWS will consider the accessibility and popularity of sites, the supporting infrastructure available, impacts to local communities and environmental considerations when determining whether a location is suitable for serviced camping. NPWS will also consider the need for competitive allocation of sites, particularly in areas where limited opportunities may be available or there may be a number of potential providers.
    • The most appropriate sites for serviced camping may be identified in PoMs or through strategic planning for new visitor experiences.
    • For small scale operators servicing individual campers, NPWS will work with the operator to identify the most suitable camping places for serviced camping during the assessment and approval process.
  8. Sites available for serviced camping must have systems in place to ensure equity of access and opportunity to camping sites (e.g. booking systems).
  9. Visitors using serviced camping arrangements must be made aware of the applicable terms and conditions of camping in national parks.
  1. Third party bookings are bookings made by external organisations on behalf of visitors staying at NSW National Parks accommodation. This can include agent bookings, operator bookings or bookings made by someone on another person's behalf.
  2. Third party operators should seek NPWS approval prior to offering bookings. This is to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place so that visitors using the booking service are informed of NPWS' terms of use and applicable booking conditions.
  3. Third party operators are required to manage all aspects of the booking, including resolution of any issues raised by the visitor with respect to the booking or the accommodation service provided. NPWS is not responsible for accuracy of information supplied by third party providers.
  1. Occupancy of snowfield accommodation (commercial lodges, hotels and subleased apartments) is permitted only:
    • where consistent with relevant environmental and sustainability assessment requirements, and related approvals
    • for visitor accommodation and not for private or residential purposes
    • for less than 6 weeks in any snow season
    • for less than 26 weeks in any year
    • in conformance with NPWS leasing practices and subject to final approval by NPWS. All occupancy rights prescribed in a proposed lease or sublease agreement shall derive only from those agreements
    • for bookings made up to 3 years in advance.
  2. In special circumstances an exemption may be granted to the 6-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 the NPWS, and will only be considered 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.
  3. In the case of sublet apartments, except where existing lease conditions prevail:
    • NPWS requires that all sublet apartments be subject to a management agreement approved by NPWS
    • 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.
  4. Any environmental planning instrument that applies from time to time, together with the Plan of Management, will govern planning issues in these areas.
  5. NPWS 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.
  6. 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 1 kilometre by existing roads from the Perisher Valley Skitube Terminal.
  7. NPWS 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.
  8. NPWS 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.
  9. NPWS 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 NPWS-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.

Policy adopted October 2010

Policy last updated June 2019

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.

Objectives

This policy aims to:

  • ensure the protection of natural and cultural values in parks while providing opportunities to enhance visitor understanding and enjoyment through the provision of visitor accommodation options
  • outline the different types of accommodation options in parks and the ways in which accommodation proposals will be assessed
  • ensure that businesses and individuals who provide, or would like to provide, visitor accommodation on park are aware of the need to apply for approval and to comply with the conditions stipulated by NPWS.

Definitions

Accommodation

Any area dedicated to an overnight stay and includes:

  • camping, including remote bush camping and self-reliant or serviced camping at designated camping sites
  • semi-permanent accommodation, such as safari tents on platforms or transportable 'pods' or other structures
  • caravans and campervans
  • built accommodation, including existing buildings or structures that have been adaptively reused, or new buildings or structures.

Adaptive reuse

The modification of a building or structure and its curtilage to suit an existing or proposed use (see section 5 of NPW Act).

PoM

A plan of management prepared under the NPW Act.

Self-reliant camping

Camping where park visitors provide their own tent or other temporary shelter (e.g. swag).

Serviced camping

Tents, bedding, moveable accommodation and other facilities provided at a camp site for a fee. Serviced camping can also include food and other services, such as tours and educational or cultural experiences (also called 'glamping').

Sustainability assessment criteria

The criteria adopted by the Director-General under section151B(3) of the NPW Act, that the Minister must have regard to prior to granting a lease or licence for visitor accommodation.

Sustainability Guidelines

Refers to the Sustainability Guidelines 2010.

Tourist park accommodation

A visitor accommodation precinct that generally includes cabin, caravan, motor-home and camping or serviced camping styles of accommodation.

Visitor accommodation

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

Snowfield accommodation

Visitor accommodation in the Perisher Range resort areas of Kosciuszko National Park – hotels, commercial lodges and managed apartments, ski-club lodges, and subleased apartments.

Accountabilities

This section outlines NPWS staff with significant responsibilities for ensuring implementation of the policy.

Positions with significant responsibilities

Paragraph Position accountable*
28 – Approve serviced camping providers Relevant NPWS delegate for the grant of a consent, licence or lease (the type of approval required will be determined by NPWS in discussion with the proposed serviced camping provider)
38 – Exemption for six-week limit on snowfield occupancy Executive Director

* The accountable officer may allocate this role to an officer authorised under the NPWS delegation instrument. Staff can access the delegation instruments on the intranet.