Notification: Parks and Wildlife Service is part of the new Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).

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 – DBCA

The Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and the Sandalwood Act 1929 are outdated.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 Biodiversity Conservation Act will eventually fully replace both the Wildlife Act and the Sandalwood Act. On 2 December 2016, several parts of the new Act were proclaimed by the State Governor in the Government Gazette. These parts came into effect on 3 December 2016, and cover (amongst other things):

  • the ability for the Minister to approve “Biodiversity management programmes;”
  • the ability for the Minister to agree to “Biodiversity conservation agreements”;
  • the ability for the Director General of Parks and Wildlife to enter into “Biodiversity Conservation Covenants” with private landholders; and
  • the ability for the Minister to make regulations for certain matters identified in the Act.

While the Act provides new arrangements for Biodiversity Conservation Covenants, these arrangements do not replace or invalidate existing registered Nature Conservation Covenants which will continue unaffected by the Biodiversity Conservation Act.

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. Work on the drafting of the new Biodiversity Conservation Regulations is underway.

Perth Hills

A new day is dawning for biodiversity protection in WA – sunrise over the Perth Hills.
Photo – DBCA

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:

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 – DBCA
  • Opsrey landing
    An osprey coming in to land.
    Photo – Peter Nicholas DBCA
  • Sandalwood tree
    The Act will provide for better management for sandalwood, a precious Western Australian resource.
    Photo – DBCA