Legislative requirements for permits

All proposals for development within or partly within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park must meet legislative requirements.

The work of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) in protecting the Marine Park is guided by a range of legislation, regulations and policies.

Permit applications under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act

All proposals for development within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park must obtain a permit from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority before any work can commence.

The proposals are assessed against criteria set out in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.

This Act and its associated regulations seek to protect and conserve the environmental, biodiversity and heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef region, while supporting recreation, economic and cultural activities within the Marine Park.

They also provide a framework for planning and permits.

If an application may restrict the public’s reasonable use of part of the Marine Park, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will often require the proponent to conduct public advertising and public consultation.

Applications under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the Australian Government's central piece of environmental legislation.

It regulates actions that have, will have or are likely to have, a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance — including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park — which are protected under Australia’s environmental law.

Under the EPBC Act, major development proposals are referred to the Federal Environment Minister to determine whether the application is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance.

If this is the case, the proponent must undertake and submit an environmental impact statement or public environment report (these are different levels of assessment), based on final Commonwealth guidelines specific to the proposal. 

Public comment is invited on the draft guidelines before they are finalised.

The proponent must also consult the public and stakeholders throughout the application process.

If the proposed action is in the Marine Park, it may also require permission from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act.

The agency will undertake an assessment which considers potential environmental, social, cultural and heritage impacts of the project — as part of this process community and stakeholder feedback is also taken into account.

In the case where a decision is required under both the EPBC Act and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act, a decision is first made under the EPBC Act by the Federal Environment Minister.

The agency is then advised formally of the Minister’s decision.