Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016

A replacement for the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and Sandalwood Act 1929.

Why is the new Biodiversity Conservation Act needed?

Humpback whale breaching
Humpback whales can be found off the coast of WA
Photo © Parks and Wildlife

The Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and the Sandalwood Act 1929 are outdated.  The Wildlife Act has been in place for 66 years and does not have the features of modern biodiversity conservation legislation.  Rather, it has a regulatory-based approach, reflecting its origins in the Game Act 1892 and Game Act 1912.  The Fauna Protection Act 1950 was amended to become the Wildlife Conservation Act in 1980 when provisions for the protection and conservation of flora (native plants) were incorporated. 

The Wildlife Act provides no promotion or encouragement for biodiversity conservation, no provisions for consultation and fully overlaps with fisheries legislation. 

Likewise, the Sandalwood Act does not sufficiently regulate the harvest of Western Australia’s precious wild sandalwood resource.  The Sandalwood Act only provides limited control on the process of wild harvesting, with a maximum penalty of $200, and no significant control over transport, storage, processing or sale of wild harvested sandalwood product.

What has been the process of bringing the Biodiversity Act to fruition?

Many governments have recognised the inadequacy of the Wildlife Act.  A draft replacement Wildlife Conservation Bill was released in November 1992 and various subsequent Governments promised to produce a Biodiversity Conservation Bill.  In 2013, introducing the Bill to Parliament became an election commitment of the Barnett government.

The Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2015 was introduced to State Parliament on 25 November 2015, and passed on 13 September 2016.  The Bill became the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 upon receiving Assent on 21 September 2016. 

When will the new Act come into effect?

The new Biodiversity Conservation Act will eventually fully replace both the Wildlife Act and the Sandalwood Act, however, the detail provisions of the new Act are not yet operating.  Work is underway to have some of the detail provisions of the Act that do not require new Regulations to be brought into effect before the end of 2016. 

Provisions that replace those existing under the Wildlife Act and Sandalwood Act (including threatened species listings and controls over the taking and keeping of native species) and their associated Regulations cannot be brought into effect until the necessary Biodiversity Conservation Regulations have been made.  It is hoped the new Regulations will be completed and ready to commence by late 2017.

Perth Hills

A new day is dawning for biodiversity protection in WA – sunrise over the Perth Hills
Photo © Parks and Wildlife

How is the new Act different?

The new Act addresses the failings of the current Acts in a number of ways, including:

  • introducing coverage for important biodiversity conservation matters that are not recognised in the Wildlife Act, such as threatened ecological communities, threatening processes, critical habitats and environmental pests;
  • providing incentives for private and community conservation initiatives involving promotion, encouragement, and partnerships with private landowners, including through new biodiversity conservation agreements and biodiversity conservation covenants;
  • greatly increasing the protection for threatened species in addition to new protection of threatened ecological communities, including through new maximum penalties for illegal taking of up to $500,000 for an individual person or $2.5million for a corporation, up from $10,000 under the Wildlife Act;
  • providing a modern regulatory regime for the management of wild sandalwood harvesting, including controls over the harvest, transport, storage, processing and export to greatly reduce the illegal sandalwood trade;
  • introducing new public and landholder consultation mechanisms that are totally absent from the Wildlife Act; and,
  • minimising unnecessary regulation and red tape and avoiding regulation where non regulatory processes are adequate.

It is also noteworthy that all authorisations for traditional taking of protected native plants and animals by Aboriginal people that are in place under the Wildlife Act are continuing under the Biodiversity Conservation Act.

More information on the differences between the Biodiversity Act and the Wildlife Act and Sandalwood Act is summarised in the following document:

Where can I get a copy of the Act?

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 is available from the State Law Publisher’s website:
https://www.slp.wa.gov.au/legislation/statutes.nsf/main_actsif.html

Copies of the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and Sandalwood Act 1929 are also available from the same website. 


  • biodiversity 2 greater stick nest rat
    Greater Stick Nest Rat
    Photo © Parks and Wildlife
  • Opsrey landing
    An osprey coming in to land
    Photo © Peter Nicholas Parks and Wildlife
  • Sandalwood tree
    The Act will provide for better management for sandalwood, a precious Western Australian resource.
    Photo © Parks and Wildlife