South Australia has an extensive network of conservation areas.

About 21% of the State’s terrestrial areas are reserves under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 or Wilderness Protection Act 1992. 44% of South Australia’s waters are included in the State’s marine park network.

Other conservation areas include the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, River Murray Protection area, heritage agreements for native vegetation, and the Arkaroola Protection Area.

Protected areas are important for long-term conservation of biodiversity and protect a range of biological, geological and heritage values. Many reserve areas have great value to Aboriginal people. They may also be protected as indigenous and non-indigenous heritage sites and places, or for tourism and recreation activities.

South Australia’s mineral and energy resources are important to the state’s economic and regional development. The government recognises the importance of balancing conservation and resource use objectives. With a large percentage of the protected area system available for exploration and mining under strict conditions, the government is committed to the sustainable use of resources within an overarching conservation framework.

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National Parks and Wildlife Act reserves

National and conservation parks, game reserves and recreation reserves are established and managed under the National Parks and Wildlife Act to conserve natural ecosystems and wildlife and for public benefit and enjoyment. This Act also allows for joint proclamation reserves where prospecting, exploration or mining can happen. Joint proclamations:

  • require the approval of both the Minister for Energy and Mining and the Minister for Environment and Water
  • require three months’ notice of any drilling, excavation, vegetation clearance or the construction of any road or other structure.

Regional reserves also permit exploration and mining.

More information about National Parks South Australia

Wilderness protection areas 

Wilderness protected areas under the Wilderness Protection Act 1992 conserve wilderness and aim to restore them to their pre-European colonisation condition. Exploration and mining are not permitted in these areas.

More information about Wilderness protection in South Australia

Arkaroola protection area

Exploration and mining are prohibited in the Arkaroola protection area. Although Arkaroola protection area land is still privately owned, the Arkaroola Protection Act 2012 protects its nationally and internationally recognised geological features, significant cultural and biological values and natural arid mountainous landscapes.

More information about Arkaroola

Vegetation heritage agreement areas 

Under the Native Vegetation Act 1991, heritage agreements protect native vegetation on private land. They are made between landowners and the Minister for Environment and Water and administered by the Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources Native Vegetation Management Unit.

Heritage agreements do not restrict land access for mineral and petroleum activities.

Find vegetation heritage agreements and their conditions at the Lands Titles Office.

More information on the DEWNR website.

River Murray Act and protection areas 

The River Murray and its related areas and ecosystems are protected by the River Murray Act 2003. Under the Act and its regulations, the Governor can also createRiver Murray Protection Areas.

Two protection areas have been designated under the River Murray Act 2003. These are classified as specially protected areas under the Mining Act and Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act:

  • River Murray Zone – buffered floodplain (approximately 1956 flood level plus 500 m from main channel)
  • Tributaries Zone – (tributaries plus floodplain, or approximately 500 m whichever is greater)

Any licence applications, proposed mining operations or regulated activities in or next to a specially protected area must be approved by the Environment Minister and the Minister for the River Murray.

More information about managing natural resources on the River Murray 

Marine parks 

Under the Marine Parks Act 2007, 19 marine parks have been created in South Australian waters to protect our marine environment.  Some are high priority areas for conservation. Others fall under a multiple use policy. They are all specially protected areas under the Mining Act and Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act. Proposed exploration and mining activity is assessed on a case-by-case basis and needs approval from the relevant Ministers.

There are four marine park zones with different levels of protection and use:

  • General managed use zones
  • Habitat protection zones
  • Sanctuary zones
  • Restricted use zones.

The marine parks website has a list of mining, petroleum and geothermal activities that are likely to be acceptable in each of the four zones.

Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary

The Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Act 2005 protects the dolphins and their habitat in the Port Adelaide River estuary and Barker Inlet.

The Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary is classified as a specially protected area under the Mining Act and Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act Mineral. Energy exploration and mining production activities are possible in the sanctuary but must be approved by the Environment Minister.

More information on Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary

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