Licences and leases over public land

Licences over public land

Chapter 11 of the Nature Conservation Act establishes a number of nature conservation licences that individuals and corporations may apply for. These licences allow persons or entities to carry out activities that would otherwise be prohibited under the Act (s 262). Activities may include damaging land or the clearing of native vegetation for commercial, development or other purposes. The conservator will issue the licence if satisfied that the applicant, and the activity to be carried out, is suitable (s 273). A ‘suitable activity’, for such a licence means an activity that the conservator is satisfied is suitable for the licence, but does not include an activity prescribed by regulation as an unsuitable activity (s 268).

A person commits an offence if they hold a licence, which is subject to a condition, and the person fails to comply with the condition (s 263). The conservator may impose a ‘financial assurance condition’ on the licence, requiring the licensee to give the conservator a financial assurance, if the conservator is satisfied that the licensed activity may cause serious or material damage and that action may need to be taken in the future to repair the damage (s 279).

The Planning Act also allows for applicants to apply to ACTPLA for licences to occupy or use unleased land (s 302). An example of a licence granted under this Act may be for allowing livestock to graze on an area of unleased territory land. The custodian of the area of unleased land must provide written consent for the licence to be issued. The granting of such a licence is subject to a written agreement by the conservator. It is also worth noting that a miner’s right may not be granted in relation to public land (s 338).

Permits over public unleased land

The licensing provisions within the Nature Conservation Act and their requirements, largely reflect the provisions in Part 3 of the Public Unleased Land Act which relate to permits for suitable activities on public unleased land. However, with respect to applications for permits under the Public Unleased Land Act, the director-general of the Environment and Planning Directorate is responsible for issuing the permit (s 57).

Public unleased land permits authorise permit-holders to exclusively use public unleased land for a certain period of time and for a certain activity (s 40). Activities that require such a permit include placing a construction bin on a footpath, holding a wedding or a concert in a park or placing tables and chairs on a footpath outside a café. The permit also allows a person to engage in conduct that would otherwise constitute an offence if it is authorised by a permit (Nature Conservation Act s 252(2)


A person ‘uses’ public unleased land if they are carrying out an activity in a manner which excludes some or all members of the public from the area (Public Unleased Land Act s 41). It is an offence for a person to use public unleased land in such a way without a permit that authorises the use (s 43). It is also an offence for a permitholder to contravene any conditions that the permit may require (s 44).

To obtain a public unleased land permit, a person may apply to the director-general in writing, stating which area of public unleased land is to be used, the time period in which the land will be used and the proposed activity to be carried out on the land (s 45). The director-general, upon receiving an application, may issue the public unleased land permit to the applicant if reasonably satisfied that the applicant is a suitable person and the activity is a suitable activity. The director-general must make a decision on the application within the required time period and notify the applicant of the decision (s 57). The required time period is 28 days from the date on which the director-general received the application. Failure to issue a public unleased land permit within the required time is taken to be a decision not to issue the public unleased land permit. The director-general must consult the conservator if the application for the permit is in relation to public unleased land that occupies a reserve (s 52A). The director-general must also require the applicant to enter into a public consultation process if satisfied the activity is likely to have significant impact on people nearby (s 53).

Leases over public land

The Planning Act also allows ACTPLA to issue a lease for any area of public land other than a wilderness area (s 337). However, written recommendation from the conservator is required for such a lease to be granted.

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