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Protected area scientific and educational research

Scientific research and educational activity in protected areas

You may need a permit to conduct scientific research or educational activities involving cultural or natural resources including flora, fauna, soil and water within:

  • protected areas
  • state forest, forest reserves, or timber reserves
  • marine parks

If a permit is required, you can submit a completed application (DOCX, 201KB) form to Parkaccess@des.qld.gov.au

Find out more on what activities, in what areas, require a permit:

Activities in protected areas

A permit to take, use, keep or interfere with cultural or natural resources is required to conduct research for scientific or educational purposes in protected areas under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Protected areas include:

  • national park
  • national park (scientific)
  • national park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land)
  • national park (Aboriginal land)
  • national park (Torres Strait Islander land)
  • nature refuge
  • special wildlife reserve
  • conservation park
  • resources reserve
  • coordinated conservation areas
  • world heritage areas.

Examples of scientific research that may be undertaken in protected areas

  • a PhD student catching and releasing fauna for a specific research project
  • a scientific institution such as CSIRO collecting plant parts for a specific study
  • a university studying invertebrates
  • a museum studying the taxonomy of reptile species
  • a researcher collecting water, rock or soil samples for a study.

Examples of educational activities that may be undertaken in national parks

  • a university group going to a national park to learn about fauna survey methods
  • a high school going to a national park to study water quality or geology.

Activities in state forest, forest reserve, or timber reserve

A permit to collect (biological and geological material) under the Forestry Act 1959 is required to conduct scientific research or educational activities in State forest, forest reserve, or timber reserve.

To apply you can submit a completed application (DOCX, 201KB) form to: Parkaccess@des.qld.gov.au

If your activity will involve protected animals, you will need a scientific or educational purposes permit if your activity is scientific research or educational.

Scientific and educational purposes permits are administered under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Activities in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

Prior to lodging an application for a Scientific and Educational Research permit within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, applicants are first required to consult with the correct Rainforest Aboriginal people.

Application for Research Endorsement (ARE) 12 month trial

To assist in this consultation process, you must complete an Application for research endorsement (ARE) form (DOCX, 116 KB) . You should allow 40 business days to complete this consultation process prior to lodging an application with the Department.

See the Steps in the application for research endorsement brochure (PDF, 510 KB) for more information.

A researcher needs to demonstrate the methods in which they have attempted to engage with the relevant Rainforest Aboriginal people and be able to provide details of the communications and record dates and times of when the communication occurred. For example, attempting to contact the relevant Rainforest Aboriginal peoples once and leaving a message without further follow up would not be considered a reasonable effort.

Endorsement by Rainforest Aboriginal peoples does not guarantee a permit. Research applications are considered against all relevant legislative assessment criteria, with the ARE forming part of the considerations. Under the Nature Conservation Act 1992, an application is assessed on its merits against a number of criteria such as the areas management principles, ecological sustainability, contributions to nature conservation, equitable access, amenity and public health and safety.

This requirement reflects the commitments of the Rainforest Aboriginal peoples and the Australian and Queensland Governments to the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area Regional Agreement (2005) (PDF, 1.87MB) and the meaningful involvement of Rainforest Aboriginal peoples in managing the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

The Human Rights Act 2019 also protects the distinct cultural rights of Rainforest Aboriginal peoples who must not be denied the right, among other things, to enjoy, maintain, control, protect and develop their identity and cultural heritage, including their traditional knowledge, distinctive spiritual practices, observances, beliefs and teachings.

For further information about the research protocols, you can contact the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) at wettropics@wtma.qld.gov.au or call (07) 4241 0500. You can also provide feedback to the WTMA regarding the research endorsement trial. The WTMA will ensure feedback about the trial is directed to the relevant parties.

Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships (DATSIP) Public Map

Researchers are directed to use the DATSIP public map to identify the appropriate Rainforest Aboriginal people to contact. This mapping tool uses publicly available data to identify the relevant Rainforest Aboriginal people for a given area. This user guide (PDF, 732 KB) will assist in using the mapping tool.

Frequently asked questions

The 12 month form applies only to those scientific research permits listed below that occur on Department of Environment and Science (DES) managed areas within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area:

  1. Permit to Take, Use, Keep or Interfere (PTUKI) – Nature Conservation Act 1992
  2. Scientific purposes permits in forestry areas—Nature Conservation Act 1992
  3. Educational purposes permits in forestry areas—Nature Conservation Act 1992
  4. Permit to Collect—Forestry Act 1959.

A research application must still be considered against all relevant legislative assessment criteria, with the ARE form content forming part of the considerations. If consent is not given, DES may request further information from the researcher and the relevant Rainforest Aboriginal peoples about the grounds upon which consent is not given.

The DES delegate could still decide to grant a permit even in the absence of consent from Rainforest Aboriginal peoples. For example, the research could form part of a long-term project which if discontinued would compromise critical data. The granting of the permit in this circumstance however, may result in additional conditions requiring the involvement of Rainforest Aboriginal peoples.

DES supports the involvement of Rainforest Aboriginal peoples in research projects conducted within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area however cannot require any fee for service arrangements in a permit.

It is the responsibility of the researcher and Rainforest Aboriginal peoples to negotiate resourcing involvement in the project. Researchers should be considering fee for service arrangements in the initial research planning and budgeting phase.

The DES delegate may still decide to grant a permit in the absence of a fee for service arrangement.

All research and education permits regulated by DES exclude commercial use, and applicants must complete a declaration on the permit application form confirming this.

If research is commercial a Biodiscovery permit is required as regulated under the Biodiscovery Act 2004. These types of permits are administered through a separate administrative process outside these arrangements.

The application for research endorsement is intended to establish relationships and strategies to support greater involvement of Rainforest Aboriginal peoples in research activities.

This is separate to procedural rights under the Native Title Act 1993, which are set out in the Queensland Government Native Title Work Procedures. The list below provides examples of standard permit conditions that can apply to all research permits involving activities in the WTWHA.

The permit holder/researcher must:

  • provide at least eight weeks’ notice of commencement of field trips to the relevant Rainforest Aboriginal peoples;
  • ensure there is an opportunity for a Traditional Owner to accompany researchers when undertaking fieldwork (e.g. a seat is available in the research vehicle);
  • avoid entering sensitive cultural locations as specified by the relevant Rainforest Aboriginal peoples or representative organisation;
  • acknowledge the relevant Rainforest Aboriginal peoples, relevant organisations and Traditional Owners in any publication relating to the research; and
  • provide a plain English summary of the research or presentation about the research to the relevant Rainforest Aboriginal peoples or an organisation nominated by the relevant Rainforest Aboriginal peoples.

Marine parks

For access to a state marine park for scientific research or educational purposes, you will require a marine park permit. You will also require a scientific or educational purposes permit if your activity involves protected animals such as cetaceans, marine turtles or sea snakes.

Activities within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Commonwealth) will require a joint marine parks permit from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority – GBRMPA Permits Online.

No fees apply to any of the abovementioned permit types.

Deciding your application

  • Applications usually take up to 40 business days to decide, unless we receive a higher than usual volume of applications.
  • If we need to ask you for further information or documents to support your application, it could take at least a further 20 business days to decide your application.
  • Applications may either be granted with conditions or refused based on legislative or policy reasons.

Prior to commencing research

If you are granted a permit, you must notify the Department of Environment and Science of your planned research at least seven days prior to arrival. This is done by completing the Research field work notification form.

Any agreement reached with the Rainforest Aboriginal people–if within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area–through the Application for research endorsement form must be actioned.

Reporting research for scientific or educational purposes

Subject to each permit granted, you will be required to submit reports or return of operations forms to Parkaccess@des.qld.gov.au