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Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) Advisory Board Annual Report 2017-19
The Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board monitors and reports on the balance of national security and economic interests in the WPA; oversees the implementation of the coesixtence policy arrangements; and fosters strategic relationships between Defence and non-Defence users of the WPA.
2018 review of the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) Coexistence Framework
On 29 March 2019 the Australian Government announced its response to the review into coexistence arrangements in the Woomera Prohibited Area. The Government supports the findings and recommendations of the Review to ensure WPA coexistence arrangements remain fit for purpose over the coming years.
The review consulted extensively with a range of stakeholders and considered whether the coexistence framework that balances Defence use with the needs of other users is fit-for-purpose for today’s environment and into the future.
The 12 recommendations made by the review reflect the enduring critical importance of the Woomera Prohibited Area to national security, while also recognising the considerable value the area holds for Aboriginal cultural heritage, mineral resources, pastoral operations, environmental research and other scientific activity.
More information about the review can be found on the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office website
WPA Green Zone Management
The Department of Defence and the South Australian Government are planning to hold a series of workshops to explore the feasibility of a more flexible grid-based arrangement for the WPA green zone, one of the recommendations outlined in the Coexistence in the Woomera Prohibited Area: 2018 Review (refer to pages 40 to 43 of the full report PDF 5.4 MB)
The first workshop was held in Adelaide on 19 June 2019. This presented an opportunity for informal conversation with members of the resources industry and other WPA stakeholders about some of the key themes, issues or concerns of the resources sector that will be relevant to the development of this flexible grid-based arrangement through a 'collaborative co-design process'.
About the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA)
The Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) covers an area of 122,000 square kilometres approximately 450 km NNW of Adelaide.
The WPA is a Prohibited Area regulated by the Defence Act 1903, Defence Regulation 2016 and the WPA Rule 2014 is used for 'the testing of war materiel' under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force. The WPA is an important Defence capability and testing and evaluation asset that plays a significant role in Australia's national security.
In 2011 a joint Australian Government–South Australian Government WPA Coordination Office (WPACO) was established to administer non-Defence use of the WPA, including the development of new management framework arrangements that support co-existence between Defence and non-Defence users within the WPA.
In August 2014 the statutory access regime for new non-Defence users in the WPA came into force with the passage of the Defence Legislation Amendment (Woomera Prohibited Area) Act 2014 by the Australian Parliament. It amends the Defence Act 1903 (Cth) by inserting Part VIB of the Defence Act and sets out a permit system, the access management zones with defined exclusion periods, new compliance and enforcement measures, compensation, and a process for review of decisions. The administrative details of the new statutory permit system are contained in the WPA Rule 2014.
Note that the new permit system to access the WPA applies to new non-Defence users including resource exploration and mining companies, opal miners, tourists and environmental and research organisations. Existing mines (Challenger, Prominent Hill, Cairn Hill and Peculiar Knob), pastoralists, Aboriginal persons and traditional owners are defined as existing users whose access will continue to be governed by the Defence Regulation 2016.
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WPA access zones
Under the new management framework the WPA has been divided into four access zones (Red, Amber Zone 1, Amber Zone 2 and Green) offering different levels of access to non-Defence users.
Each management zone has exclusion periods during which Defence may undertake testing activities. Access during an exclusion period will not be permitted.
- Red Zone: continuous use by Defence therefore no public access or resource tenements or activity is permitted.
- Amber Zones: Defence can exclude on-ground access to all non-Defence users for specified periods of time; for Amber Zone 1 up to 140 days in a year; for Amber Zone 2 up to 70 days.
- Green Zone: non-Defence users may be excluded for up to 56 days in a year.
Detailed descriptions of the access zones are available from www.defence.gov.au/woomera/zones.htm
The Amber Zone exclusion periods are published in March of each year showing the access restrictions which apply during the following financial year (i.e. 1 July to 30 June).
Restrictions that may take place in parts of the Green Zone are notified at least 6 months in advance for resource production permit holders and a minimum of 21 days prior to the activity for all other users.
More information: www.defence.gov.au/woomera/exclusionperiods.htm
Defence’s exclusion periods are also published on the Federal Register of Legislation at: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2019L00323
Remaining exclusion periods financial year 2019–20
Amber Zone 1 South-Eastern Corner (Defence Periodic Use Zone 1)
- 3 March to 4 May 2020 inclusive
Exclusion periods for Financial Year 2020–21
Amber Zone 1 South-Eastern Corner (Defence Periodic Use Zone 1)
- 20 July 2020 to 30 August 2020 inclusive
- 5 November 2020 to 9 December 2020 inclusive
- 8 March 2021 to 11 April 2021 inclusive
Amber Zone 2 Centre-line Corridor (Defence Periodic Use Zone 2)
Note: The exclusion period scheduled for 20 July 2020 to 16 August 2020 inclusive has been cancelled.
The following exclusion periods for Amber Zone 2 remain in force:
- 19 November 2020 to 9 December 2020 inclusive
- 22 March 2021 to 11 April 2021 inclusive
The Amber Zone 2 Includes sections of the Anne Beadell Highway.
Notifications of restrictions in parts of the Green Zone will be made through https://www.defence.gov.au/woomera/exclusionperiods.htm and relevant travel information outlets with 21 days notice.
Notifications and exclusion period variations
A more detailed map showing the WPA and access zone boundaries is available from the South Australian Resources Information Geoserver site at: https://map.sarig.sa.gov.au/.
You are encouraged to regularly review the exclusion period information published on the WPA Coordination Office website at: http://www.defence.gov.au/woomera.
Access to Aboriginal Lands - travel restrictions
The Maralinga Tjarutja (MT) and Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) traditional owners have advised Defence that there are travel restrictions in place within their lands to protect the health of their people during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Both MT and APY require permits to enter their lands, parts of which are within the WPA.
Please consult the MT and APY websites for further information:
Other traditional owners with native title within the WPA are:
Public right of access
Separate to the Green, Amber and Red access zones, the Defence Minister under the WPA Rule has granted a standing permission for people to access the Central Australian railway line, the Stuart Highway, the William Creek to Coober Pedy Road, the Lake Cadibarrawirracanna Road (also known as Public Access Route 18), the Olympic Dam Highway (B97) and the Woomera Village. The Defence Minister may however suspend the standing permission over these access routes and close them temporarily when required for the testing of war material.
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Procedure for entry to the WPA
Access to the WPA for exploration and mining is governed by a Permit issued by the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office (WPACO).
Companies seeking access for mineral exploration or mining activities to the WPA must:
- Hold a licence or lease issued by the Government of South Australia
- Obtain a Resource Exploration Access Permit (Form W001) or Resource Production Access (Mining) Permit (Form W002)
- Ensure that all persons entering the WPA under the permit hold an Approved Person status (Form W003) or are an Escorted Person (Form W004)
- Request access permission for each instance of access to the WPA using the Access Form (Form W007)
For opal mining and precious stone prospecting in the WPA under the Opal Mining Act 1995, an applicant must hold a Precious Stones Prospecting Permit issued by the Government of South Australia and an Opal Mining and Precious Stone Prospecting Access Permit (Form W006) issued by the Woomera Test Range. The Opal Mining and Precious Stone Prospecting Access Permits are valid for 12 months.
Applicable forms can be downloaded from the WPACO website on www.defence.gov.au/woomera/forms.htm
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Woomera Restricted Airspace (WRX) - new spatial layer available on SARIG
The WRX layer available from the South Australian Resources Information Gateway shows the restricted airspace above the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) and forms part of the RAAF Woomera Test Range (WTR). The layer is a helpful tool when planning to conduct airborne surveys and other airspace-related activities over the WPA.
The layer is divided into individual Restricted Areas (blocks). One or a combination of Restricted Areas can be activated (i.e. airspace above that portion of the WPA becomes restricted) when testing of war material is taking place during an exclusion period.
For more information about the WRX contact WTR on +61 8 8674 3370.