Apply for a parks tour permit
If you want to operate a tour in a Northern Territory (NT) park or reserve, you need a permit.
Permits are needed for any type of tour, including guided walks, camping tours, boat tours, horse rides, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tours and caving tours.
Who can apply
You must hold an Australian business number (ABN) and be undertaking a tour activity. If you want to conduct other commercial activities inside a park, you may need a concession permit instead. Contact Parks and Wildlife if you are unsure.
You must understand and follow the:
Which parks aren't covered
The permit covers tour activities in most NT parks. Special conditions may exist for the following parks:
- Garig Gunak Barlu National Park - Cobourg
- Channel Point Coastal Reserve
- Jatbula Trail in Nitmiluk National Park
- Larapinta Trail, including the areas of Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park and Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve that form part of the trail
If you are planning to operate tours in these parks, contact the Parks and Wildlife permit office.
The Parks and Wildlife Commission does not issue permits for Kakadu National Park or Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. For information about these parks, visit the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website.
Who can’t get a permit
You can’t get a permit if you or your employees, agents or contractors have, in the past 5 years, been accused of or found guilty of breaking conservation laws such as:
- Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1976
- Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation By-Laws 1984
- any laws or by-laws of the NT, the Commonwealth or a state or territory that relate to protection, conservation or management of native species.
How long it takes
The time your application takes depends on the type and complexity of the required permit.
Standard tour operator permits are usually processed within 2 weeks once all required information is received.
If your tour involves non-public areas, installation of new facilities, animals or the use of special vehicles, it can take up to 3 months to receive a decision on your application as it involves multiple stages. This depends on the time it takes at each of the below stages.
- Submission of a business proposal – parks staff will provide context and site specific advice on this requirement after reviewing your application.
- Assessment of your application by a relevant board if applicable – this may include consultation with Traditional Owners.
- Your review and agreement to any recommendations or conditions required for your permit to get issued.
What you need
You will need all of the following for your application:
- names and ABNs for any proposed subcontractors
- copy of your public liability insurance policy certificate of currency with coverage of at least $20 million
- if you have staff, a copy of your workers compensation insurance
- if you’re operating a company, a copy of a company extract from ASIC that:
- shows the names of the company directors and
- is no older than 6 months.
If your tour involves off-path activities, non-public facilities, animals or special vehicles, you may also need:
- risk assessments for your activities
- to map the locations you are visiting as part of your application or upload a map you have prepared.
How to apply
Make sure you have all of the documents and information listed above before you start.
If you can't apply online, contact the Parks and Wildlife permits office.
You'll need to pay for your application using a credit or debit card before you submit.
The fee you pay depends on if you require a tour operator permit or a concession permit. Tours that involve non-public areas, installation of new facilities, animals or the use of special vehicle, generally require a concession permit.
Tour operator permit:
- $100 for 4 or fewer park visits
- $500 for 5 or more park visits
- $1,500 for any number of park visits for up to 3 years
- $2,500 for any number of park visits for up to 5 years.
- A one-off application fee of $300 is payable on submission if you're not a current permit holder.
- Concession permits attract an annual fee and security deposit. Parks and Wildlife will contact you with more information during the assessment of your application.
An NT parks pass is being introduced in 2023. You’ll need to make sure all of your interstate and overseas guests have a pass. Territorians will be exempt.
Reporting and other responsibilities
As a condition of your permit, you have a number of responsibilities.
Annual reporting of patrons for tour operator permits
You must complete a patron statistics statement every year. This is a condition of your permit and needs to be completed:
- annually - no later than 20 business days after 31 March and
- after your permit has expired.
Reporting for concession permits
The required reporting details and intervals will be stipulated when you sign off on your permit.
You must report all incidents that affect your clients and employees.
You must also report events that could harm the environment or put people at risk.
Reports should be made within 24 hours of the incident. To make a report, contact the Parks and Wildlife Commission permits and concessions office.
You’ll need to book and pay for any camping separately. Read more about camping in parks and reserves.
Marine turtle watching permits
Commercial tourism operators must apply for a permit to take or interfere with wildlife before conducting marine turtle watching activities in the NT.
Watarrka National Park safety induction
All tour guides operating in Watarrka National Park must complete a Watarrka National Park safety induction.
Last updated: 08 July 2022
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