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The new Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 will replace both the Wildlife Conservation Act and the Sandalwood Act. On 3 December 2016, several parts of the new Act were proclaimed by the State Governor in the Government Gazette. The parts that came into effect include:

  • the ability for the Minister for Environment to approve `biodiversity management programs'
  • the ability for the Minister for Environment to agree to `biodiversity conservation agreements'
  • the ability for the Director General of DBCA to enter into `biodiversity conservation covenants' with private landholders, and
  • the ability for the Minister for Environment 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.

Provisions that replace those existing under the Wildlife Conservation Act and Sandalwood Act (including threatened species listings and controls over the taking and keeping of native species) and their associated Regulations will come into effect on 1 January 2019. 

Humpback whale breaching
Humpback whales can be found off the coast of WA.
Photo – DBCA

Why was the new Act needed?

The Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and the Sandalwood Act 1929 were outdated.  The Wildlife Conservation Act was in place for 66 years and does not have the features of modern biodiversity conservation legislation.  Rather, it had 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 Conservation Act provided no promotion or encouragement for biodiversity conservation, no provisions for consultation and fully overlaps with fisheries legislation. 

Likewise, the Sandalwood Act did not sufficiently regulate the harvest of Western Australia’s precious wild sandalwood resource.  The Sandalwood Act only provided 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.


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 old Acts in a number of ways, including:

  • introducing coverage for important biodiversity conservation matters that are not recognised in the Wildlife Conservation 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 Conservation 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 Conservation Act, and
  • minimising unnecessary regulation and red tape and avoiding regulation where non regulatory processes are adequate.

All authorisations for traditional taking of protected native plants and animals by Aboriginal people that were in place under the Wildlife Conservation Act are continuing under the Biodiversity Conservation Act.

More information on the differences between the Biodiversity Conservation Act and the Wildlife Conservation 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 Conservation Regulations are now being developed to enable the implementation of other parts of the Biodiversity Conservation Act. Ministerial Guidelines that provide detail on how some provisions of the Act are to be implemented are also being developed.

  • 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