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Environment

The Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000 authorises petroleum activities provided that there is appropriate protection of the environment, social values and existing land uses. Details and guidelines for specific activities are provided under Guidelines and Policy.

Protected Areas

The total area of protected land (i.e. land proclaimed or reserved for conservation purposes) within onshore South Australia is 21,101,581 hectares, over 21% of the state. The areas are administered by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972Crown Land Management Act 2009 and Wilderness Protection Act 1992. Approximately 74% of onshore protected areas allow access for mineral and petroleum exploration and development. There are seven categories of reserve.

Summary of protected areas onshore South Australia

Reserve
Type 
Relevant 
Act
Number
of Parks
Reserve
Area (ha)
Percentage
of State
Reserved
Percentage
of Park 
Area available 
for Petroleum 
Percentage
of SA 
within Parks excluded 
from Petroleum
Recreation
Park
NPW Act 1972131,697<0.1%0%<0.1%
National
Park
NPW Act 1972223,998,6304.10%86.30%0.60%
Conservation
Reserve
CLM Act 20091519,471<0.1%100.00%0%
Regional
Reserve
NPW Act 197279,340,1189.50%100.00%0%
Game
Reserve
NPW Act 19721025,887<0.1%0%<0.1%
Wilderness
Protection Area
WP Act 1992141,843,4541.90%0%1.90%
Conservation
Park
NPW Act 1972 2755,872,324 6.00% 46.90%3.20% 
 Total 35621,101,581 21.5% 73.80% 5.60% 
Table notes: 
  
NPW Act 1972: National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972
CLM Act 2009:Crown Land Management Act 2009.
WP Act 1992:Wilderness Protection Act 1992.

Protected Areas:

Land proclaimed or reserved for conservation purposes pursuant to the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, Crown Land Management Act 2009 or the Wilderness Protection Act 1992.
Totals:Columns in this table may appear not to total due to rounding. The reported totals are correct.

Data Sources:

The information included in this table was produced from the Protected Areas Information System by the Protected Areas Unit, Conservation and Land Management Branch, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources; information current 27 June 2016.
Area of South Australia:98,113,292 ha - Calculated by Lamberts Conformal Conic Projection, Datum GDA94, from 1:50,000 mapping.
  

The legislation is designed for conservation purposes, but there are provisions for joint proclamations and regional reserves both of which allow access for mineral and petroleum exploration and development. Where access is excluded, this includes subsurface access as well as surface access.

Conservation reserves, under the Crown Land Management Act 2009, identify land that has environmental values, ostensibly for soil protection under the Act. There are no specific legislative restrictions to mining or petroleum access in these reserves, although they signal that a higher than normal degree of scrutiny will be applied for any proposed activity in these areas.

Protected areas also occur offshore (e.g. the Great Australian Bight Marine Park) and are administered under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, Fisheries Management Act 2007 and the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1981.

Under the Marine Parks Act 2007, 19 marine parks have been created throughout South Australian waters.

Whilst a multiple use policy is applicable to these parks, there will be specific zones where mining and petroleum exploration and/or development will be excluded.

Heritage agreements, agreements entered into between landowners and the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, are attached to the title of the land and provide protection to native vegetation on private land. These agreements are established under the Native Vegetation Act 1991, and are administered by the Native Vegetation Branch of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Access requirements for mineral and petroleum exploration are dependent on the tenement type.

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Jointly Proclaimed Parks

A joint proclamation allowing mining rights is a mechanism under section 43(2) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 which provides for the Governor to proclaim conditions whereby rights of entry, prospecting, exploration and mining may be acquired for national parks and conservation parks. This is qualified by section 43(5), which states that such a proclamation cannot be made unless:

(a) it allows for continuing rights vested in a person immediately before the commencement of the Act.

(b) the proclamation is made simultaneously with the proclamation constituting a reserve.

Mineral exploration and mining activities are possible only with approval of the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation as per the conditions of the park proclamation and in accordance with the management plan for the park.

This is also the case for petroleum exploration and production, except where a petroleum exploration licence was in force immediately prior to proclamation of the park. In this case, the proclamation may allow application for a production licence without approval of the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation.

Many recent additions to the reserve system have been made under joint proclamations, which allow existing rights to continue and future rights to be acquired. This means that there are some parks where access may be available to some parcels of land but not others within the park due to existing tenure.

Regional Reserves

The 1987 amendments to section 34 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 provided, amongst other matters, for a new multiple-use classification of reserve called the regional reserve. This classification provides for the conservation of wildlife and the natural or historic features of the land while, at the same time, permitting use of its natural resources.

Petroleum and mineral exploration activity may take place provided that they are subject to controls consistent with the management plan for the reserve. Mineral and petroleum exploration licence applications for areas within regional reserves are processed by the Department of State Development but must be referred to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation for comment. Exploration work programs are discussed with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources as a matter of policy.

In the case of production tenements, approval must be given by the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation. If ministerial agreement with the Minister for Minerals Resources and Energy cannot be reached in a particular case, the issue is referred to the Governor for decision.

Under section 40(a) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, the Ministers may enter into an agreement with the holder of a petroleum exploration licence granted in relation to land that is, or has become, a regional reserve which imposes conditions limiting or restricting the exercise of rights under the tenement by the holder of the tenement and by his or her successors in title.

In all other respects exploration and production in a regional reserve are carried out under the provisions of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act and Regulations.

Petroleum and geothermal exploration take place in a number of regional reserves, and much of the current petroleum produced from the Cooper Basin originates from within the Innamincka Regional Reserve.

Summary of requirements for consultation with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources:

Type of licence

Type of 
application
Type of Reserve
Requirement from Minister
for Sustainability, Environment
and Conservation
Section in 
National
Parks and Wildlife Act 1972
Exploratory licences*Licence onlyPark with mining proclamationApproval43(2)
Licence onlyRegional Reserve Comment43A(1)
Work programPark with mining proclamationApproval43(2)
Work program Regional ReserveNil (legally, but policy
requires consultation)
N/A
Production
or pipeline
licence#
Licence onlyPark with mining proclamationApproval43(2)
Licence onlyRegional ReserveApproval43A(2)
Table notes:
* Includes preliminary survey, speculative survey, petroleum exploration, geothermal exploration, gas storage exploration, retention licences and associated facilities licences for exploratory activities.
# This would include associated activities licences if the licence involved production or pipeline transport of petroleum.

For more information, contact:

Mr Joe Zabrowarny
General Manager
Licensing and Legislation
Energy Resources Division

+61 8 8463 3203
Joe.Zabrowarny@sa.gov.au
Mr Shane Farrelly
Manager
Licensing and Legislation
Energy Resources Division

+61 8 8463 3216
Shane.Farrelly@sa.gov.au