New assessment approach for Marine Park permits

A new, clearer application and assessment process for permits to operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park comes in to effect today.

It applies to new applications for activities within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park which are regulated by permits.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority director Dr Kirstin Dobbs said it aimed to increase the transparency and rigour of assessment while maintaining strong levels of environmental protection.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number and complexity of permit applications recently and the improvements will reduce regulatory and administrative burdens and improve the consistency of the decision-making-process,” she said.

“We know certain activities pose a low risk to the values of the Marine Park so we have introduced a new standardised permit to cover these activities.

“This approach will help reduce the time spent assessing these applications so we can focus our efforts on more complex projects.”

The changes, which are based on two rounds of consultation with permit holders and other key stakeholders, include:

  • A new online portal to submit applications and manage all permissions and contact details
  • New routine tourism and charter permit — a fully standardised permit for some tourism activities available to anyone who meets certain requirements
  • The inclusion of whale watching as part of the standard tourism program (except the whale protection area in the Whitsundays where it remains prohibited)
  • Longer permit terms up to 20 years
  • Improved assessment guidelines
  • A checklist of information required at the time of application
  • Updated permission system policy and new guidance documents.

Under the new arrangements, five standardised approaches will guide the assessment of all new permit applications made under the Marine Parks permission system.

The improvements also address a number of the recommendations made by the Australian National Audit Office 2015 performance audit.

The permission system is jointly managed by the Marine Park Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

It is made up of guidelines, legislation and policies on how the agencies manage permission applications, assessments and decisions about the type of activities allowed in the Marine Park and how they should be conducted.

The Authority manages 1329 Marine Park permits and last year received 378 applications for permission.

Tourism operators can find out what these changes mean at information sessions in Port Douglas, Cairns and the Whitsundays the week of 20 November 2017 — further information will be available at