Public comment invited on proposed permission system improvements

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is seeking public feedback on proposed changes to its system of granting permits for activities in the Marine Park.

As part of its commitment to streamline processes while maintaining high levels of environmental protection, the agency is undertaking a major review of its permission system, which includes revising key policies and guidelines, and amending the Great Barrier Marine Park Regulations.

GBRMPA’s general manager for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use Bruce Elliot said the updates included new guidance material for permit applicants and the public on how permit decisions are made.

“The proposed changes will strengthen the system by improving consistency and transparency through a range of guidelines so the process and the basis for decisions is clearer,” Mr Elliot said.

“It will also ensure better integration with processes relating to Australia’s national environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.”

Key changes being proposed include:

  • an updated risk assessment procedure to consistently consider all values of the Marine Park (biodiversity, heritage and social values)
  • guidelines for considering indirect or flow-on impacts that may be caused by a proposal
  • guidelines on the use of drones
  • guidelines on assessing potential impacts to social, historic heritage and Indigenous heritage values
  • expanding opportunities for tourism-related whale-watching, provided they comply with existing approach distances and other whale protection regulations
  • introducing longer term permits where risks are deemed acceptable (such as tourism programs)
  • introducing checklists of information that needs to be submitted before an application can be accepted
  • changing the types and frequencies of inspections required for fixed facilities.

Mr Elliot said the documents out for public comment were developed or updated after an initial round of public consultation was held between October and December 2015.

“During that period, we sought feedback on what changes the community, including permit applicants and holders, would like to see to the permission system,” Mr Elliot said.

“Respondents identified a need for greater transparency of decision-making, availability of information on how decisions are made and streamlining of processes.

“We have taken on board that feedback and reflected this through improvements to our environmental impact management policy, and the development of new application and assessment guidelines.

“I encourage interested stakeholders to comment on all or any of these documents.”

The draft documents are also consistent with recommendations from the Australian National Audit Office, which released a report into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s permission system in 2015.

Changes are expected to take effect for all new permit applications received on or after 1 July 2017. No amendments are being introduced to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 or Zoning Plan.

The period for submissions is open until 4 November 2016.

Documents and information on how to submit comments are available at