The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the principal Commonwealth legislation for establishing and managing protected areas. The Director of National Parks is a corporation established under the Act, with the function of managing Commonwealth reserves. The Director is assisted in performing this function by the staff of Parks Australia (a division of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities).
Some Commonwealth reserves are managed in conjunction with a Board of Management whilst Advisory Committees provide advice to the Director on the management of other reserves. These Boards and Committees play crucial roles in determining the policies and priorities for the management of each protected area.
Under the EPBC Act, the Director of National Parks is responsible for:
- the administration, management and control of Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones;
- the protection, conservation and management of biodiversity and heritage in Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones;
- the protection, conservation and management of biodiversity and heritage in areas outside Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones;
- consulting and cooperating with other countries with regard to matters relating to the establishment and management of national parks and nature reserves in those countries;
- the provision of training in the knowledge and skills relevant to the establishment and management of national parks and nature reserves;
- research and investigation relevant to the establishment and management of Commonwealth reserves;
- making recommendations to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment; and,
- administration of the Australian National Parks Fund.
Parks Australia structure and branches
Administrative responsibilities within the division are carried out by three branches which report to the Director of National Parks: Parks Protected Areas Programs; Parks Operations and Tourism; and Parks and Biodiversity Science.
Parks Australia Executive
Parks Australia Executive includes the Director of National Parks and the heads of the three branches. The Parks Communications and Web Section also reports to the Director.
Parks and protected areas programs
The branch has responsibility for leadership and delivery of the National Reserve Systems and Indigenous Protected Areas Programs, management of the Commonwealth's access and benefit-sharing legislation in relation to genetic resources, and protected area policy matters. The branch also provides legal and governance advice to the Director. The branch includes Booderee and Norfolk Island National Parks and Calperum Station.
The Branch is managed by the Assistant Secretary, Protected Areas Policy and Programs branch and is made up of the following sections:
- Indigenous protected areas
- Protected area policy and biodiscovery
- National Reserve System
- Calperum Station
- Legal and Governance
- Booderee National Park
- Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Gardens
Parks operations and tourism branch
The branch has responsibility for the joint management of Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks and provides support for Christmas Island and Pulu Keeling National Parks. It manages protected area support and compliance systems and protected area planning and tourism policy and practice. The branch also includes Divisional support and coordination and manages finance and accounting matters.
The branch is managed by the Assistant Secretary, Parks Operations and Tourism branch and is made up of the following sections:
- Planning, Tourism and National Landscapes
- Parks Operational and Support
- Business and Financial Management
- Kakadu National Park
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Parks and biodiversity science
The branch has responsibility for the management of Christmas Island and Pulu Keeling National Parks, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, the Australian Biological Resources Study and the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research (a partnership between the Director of National Parks and CSIRO).
The branch manages and supports National Parks and Botanic Gardens, manages botanical collections, undertakes botanical research and collects and disseminates biological information. The branch also includes the National Focal Point for the Convention on Biological Diversity and provides advice to the Director on biodiversity science issues.
The Branch is managed by the Assistant Secretary, Parks and Biodiversity Science branch and is made up of the following sections:
- International Biodiversity Policy
- Christmas Island National Park
- Pulu Keeling National Park
- Australian National Botanic Gardens
- Australian Biological Resources Study
Director of National Parks is a corporation sole established under Division 5 of Part 19 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 ('EPBC Act') and a Commonwealth authority for the purposes of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997. The corporation is constituted by the person - appointed to the office named the Director of National Parks.
Under Division 4 of Part 15 of the EPBC Act, the Minister must establish a Board for a Commonwealth reserve that is wholly or partly on indigenous people's land. The Board's role is to prepare reserve management plans, make decisions to implement those plans, monitor management and provide advice to the Minister. A majority of Board members must be Aboriginals nominated by the traditional owners of the reserve.
Boards of management have been established for three Commonwealth reserves:
The majority of Commonwealth Marine Protected Areas declared under the EPBC Act are managed by the Marine Division of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities under delegation from the Director of National Parks. The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve is managed by the Australian Antarctic Division under delegation from the Director.
These parks and reserves, which are located generally in remote areas, protect tropical islands as well as cays and temperate and sub-Antarctic marine environments.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority under separate legislation.