Activities declarations on reserves

Activities declaration

The conservator has powers under the Nature Conservation Act to make an activities declaration to either prohibit or restrict certain activities within a reserve (s 256). Activities that are likely to be prohibited or restricted include lighting a fire, camping, driving a motor vehicle or swimming. However, the conservator can only make such a declaration if they reasonably believe that the activity in question may have a negative impact on the reserve (s 256(1)).

A restricted activity can only be carried out if the stated directions, contained in the activities declaration, are complied with (s 256(2)(a)). Prohibited activities are strictly not permitted. Once an activities declaration has been made, the declaration must be published in a daily newspaper and displayed in a clearly visible place at the reserve to which it applies (s 256(5)).

Chapter 9 offences in the Nature Conservation Act (discussed above), insofar as they are inconsistent with an activities declaration, do not apply if a person is undertaking a restricted activity on the reserve and is complying with the stated directions contained in the activities declaration (s 252). Certain offences under the Public Unleased Land Act will also not apply in some cases where an activities declaration is in force (Public Unleased Land Act s 43 (4A)). These declarations are useful as they allow for certain reserves, such as parts of Canberra Nature Park, to be used for activities such as the walking of dogs, which would otherwise be prohibited (Nature Conservation Act s 214).

Contravening an activities declaration

If a person carries out an activity that is restricted on a reserve, and contravenes those restrictions, that person has committed an offence (Nature Conservation Act s 257(1)). The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 penalty units. If the contravention occurs on a resource protection area (defined in Part 10.1), the maximum penalty becomes 30 penalty units.

If a person carries out an activity that is prohibited on a reserve, that person has also committed an offence (s 258(1)). This offence has a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units, and, if the offence is committed on a resource protection area, a maximum of 50 penalty units. This offence is also a strict liability offence. However, this offence does not apply if the person is authorised to engage in the conduct under a licence or permit (s 261).

Restricted access to reserves

The conservator has the power to close a reserve if they reasonably believe that public access to the reserve may endanger public safety or interfere with the management of the reserve (s 259). The reserve can also be closed to a specific group of persons or class of persons (s 259(2)). If the conservator closes a reserve through a declaration, the declaration must be published in a daily newspaper and a notice of the declaration must be displayed on the reserve (s 259(4)).

A person commits an offence if a closed reserve declaration is in force for a reserve and the person enters the reserve in contravention of the declaration (s 260). This offence carries a maximum of 50 penalty units and is a strict liability offence. A person who is accused of committing this offence may raise the defence that they took reasonable steps to ensure that the contravention did not happen (s 260(3)).

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