Steps in the permitting process

In order to be granted a permit to undertake an activity, an application must be submitted to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) or Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS). It should provide enough information so permit assessors can clearly understand what the intended activity is and where it is to be carried out.

Applicants should note that making a statement (whether orally, in a document or in any other way), in connection with an application for a permit, that is false or misleading, or omits any matter or thing without which the statement is misleading, is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty for an offence is imprisonment for up to a year. In addition, a permit granted to a person convicted of such an offence may be revoked.

An application for a Marine Parks permit to conduct commercial activities requires the payment of a Permit Application Assessment Fee (PAAF). The fee varies depending on the type of operation and is recalculated yearly using the Consumer Price Index.

The GBRMPA is required to assess all valid permit applications. In assessing an application, the GBRMPA must consider criteria outlined in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983 including:

Mandatory Considerations
  • The potential impacts of the conduct proposed to be permitted by the permission (the proposed conduct) on the environment and on the social, cultural and heritage values of the Marine Park or a part of the Marine Park
  • Options for monitoring, managing and mitigating the potential impacts of the proposed conduct
  • If the proposed conduct will take place in an area to which a zoning plan applies — the objectives of the zone as set out in the zoning plan
  • If the proposed conduct also requires an approval or permit under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999:

(i)  whether the approval or permission has been, or is likely to be, granted and, if granted, the terms and conditions of it being granted; and
(ii)  any relevant assessment documentation (within the meaning given by subsection 133(8) of that Act) in relation to the approval or permit

  • Any written comments received about the application in response to the public advertisement published in accordance with regulation 88D
  • Any other matters relevant to the orderly and proper management of the Marine Park
Discretionary Considerations
  • The requirement in section 37AA of the Act for users of the Marine Park to take all reasonable steps to prevent or minimise harm to the environment in the Marine Park that might or will be caused by the user’s use or entry
  • The effect that the grant of the permission will have on public appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the Marine Park
  • The impact of the conduct proposed to be permitted under the permission in the context of other conduct in the relevant area or nearby areas, or in the Marine Park, that is being undertaken, is planned, is in progress, or is reasonably foreseeable at the time of the Authority’s consideration of the application, whether or not related to or a consequence of the proposed conduct
  • Any policies or guidelines issued by the Authority about the management of the Marine Park or the performance of the Authority’s functions under the Act and these Regulations
  • If the application for the permission relates to an undeveloped project the cost of which will be large — the capacity of the applicant to satisfactorily develop and manage the project
  • If the proposed conduct also requires an approval or permission under a law of Queensland — whether the approval or permission has been, or is likely to be, granted and, if granted, the terms and conditions of it being granted
  • Any international Convention to which Australia is a signatory, or any agreement between the Commonwealth and a State or Territory, that is relevant to the application
  • Any relevant law of the Commonwealth, or a relevant law of Queensland as in force from time to time, or a relevant plan made under such a law, relating to the management of the environment, or an area in the Marine Park
  • Any relevant recovery plan, wildlife conservation plan, threat abatement plan or approved conservation advice, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
  • Whether the applicant for the permission is a suitable person to hold such a permission, having regard to:

(i) the applicant’s history in relation to environmental matters; and
(ii) if the applicant is a body corporate — the history of its executive officers in relation to environmental matters; and
(iii) if the applicant is a company that is a subsidiary of another company (the parent body) — the history of the parent body and its executive officers in relation to environmental matters; and
(iv) any charge, collected amount or penalty amount that is overdue for payment by the applicant as the holder of a chargeable permission (whether or not the permission is in force); and
(v) any late payment penalty that is payable by the applicant as the holder of a chargeable permission (whether or not the permission is in force); and
(vi) any unpaid fines or civil penalties required to be paid by the applicant in relation to a contravention of the Act or of these Regulations

  • Any other matters relevant to achieving the objects of the Act

As the Marine Park is also part of the World Heritage Area, the GBRMPA must consider the effect that a proposal is likely to have on World Heritage values.

In the event the proposal is considered to have a significant impact on a matter of National Environmental Significance, referral under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 may be required.

If it is considered the proposal may restrict reasonable use by the public of a part of the Marine Park, the GBRMPA can require a public notification of the proposal and invite public comments. These comments will then be considered in assessing the application.

With all applications for Marine Parks permits, the onus is on the applicant to establish that the environmental impacts of the proposed operation are acceptable.

From time to time, the GBRMPA may develop guidelines to inform people about specific activities.