A NSW Government website

Parks Eco Pass program for commercial tour operators

Parks Eco Pass is the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service program for licensing operators who conduct commercial tours and recreational and educational activities in parks.

 

Welcome to the National Parks and Wildlife Service Parks Eco Pass program. The program supports operators to work with National Parks and Wildlife Service to offer exceptional visitor experiences across NSW national parks. 

Nature-based tourism is a major contributor to the NSW visitor economy. In partnership with National Parks and Wildlife Service, commercial operators play an invaluable role  in promoting our parks and encouraging visitors to appreciate, understand and enjoy them.

The Parks Eco Pass program streamlines licensing and creates consistency across NSW national parks. It offers:

  • one licence (obtained through one application) that allows your business to operate all your licensed activities, in more than one park
  • a single fee structure for the whole state
  • the ability to transfer your licence if you sell the business
  • licence terms of up to 5 years
  • a dedicated team and key contact point.
Key benefits of the program

The Parks Eco Pass program offers:

  • a licence package that provides value for money for commercial tour operators, including greater promotional support through National Parks and Wildlife Service marketing channels
  • no annual licence fees for Aboriginal businesses for the first 2 years to encourage and support new businesses to operate on Country
  • online resources to make it simpler and faster for operators to start working with National Parks and Wildlife Service to provide nature-based visitor experiences
  • measures to maintain high-quality visitor experiences compatible with natural and cultural environments
  • complimentary Aboriginal cultural awareness training module to help operators develop and deliver tours in a culturally sensitive way.

For more information on whether you require a Parks Eco Pass licence, please read the NSW Parks Eco Pass: Operator handbook.

Any business entity, organisation or individual undertaking a ‘commercial activity’ associated with recreation, tourism and/or education in a NSW national park or reserve must hold a Parks Eco Pass licence.

Licensing maintains the quality of activities provided in parks and prevents harm to natural areas. If you become aware of an unlicensed activity being run in a park, please report it to the Visitor Engagement and Revenue Branch at [email protected].

Before you apply for a Parks Eco Pass licence

Before applying for a Parks Eco Pass licence, all new and existing commercial operators must read the NSW Parks Eco Pass: Operator handbook.

The handbook will help you understand the requirements of being a licensed Parks Eco Pass operator, including:

  • how you can encourage visitor enjoyment
  • how you can help protect park values, and nurture our nature-based tourism and recreation industry
  • general rules applicable to all licensed Parks Eco Pass operators
  • the licence fees and reporting requirements
  • Aboriginal cultural and heritage interpretation
  • different licence conditions that apply to specific activities and areas relevant to your type of operation.

Please also read the Park Eco Pass general licence conditions and the conditions that apply to a specific location and activity in the Parks Eco Pass activity and location conditions spreadsheet before you apply to be a Parks Eco Pass licensed operator.

Commercial operators must ensure they are fully aware of, understand and are able to abide by all conditions of their Parks Eco Pass licence. 

Apply for a Parks Eco Pass licence

We want to work with commercial operators who share our values, run professional operations and deliver enjoyable experiences. We know that commercial operators who are fully invested in our parks will help us protect these valuable places for future generations to enjoy. If this sounds like you, please follow the below steps in the application process.

Step 1 – Pre-application meeting

To discuss your application, including details of activities and locations and what support you might need to start your business, contact us by:

Identify whether your application relates to land jointly managed or the detailed interpretation of Aboriginal cultural heritage. If it does, the approval process has extra steps:

You can also visit the Destination NSW website for a broad range of information and resources available to tourism operators.

Step 2 – Online assessment

Complete the online assessment, covering safety, conservation, important conditions, how to use the licence and handbook, fees, and our values.

Step 3 – Public liability insurance

Obtain a public liability insurance (PLI) policy for a minimum value of A$10 million.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water must be named as an interested party using the following exact text:

'The Minister administering the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 on behalf of the State of NSW ABN 27 578 976 844’.

Step 4 – Business plan

Prepare a business plan in the template. All applicants must ensure their business plan is presented in the Parks Eco Pass tour operator business plan template (DOCX 1MB).

Step 5 – Online application

Complete the licence application form. You will need to upload:

  • public liability insurance
  • your business plan
  • letter of support to conduct Aboriginal heritage and cultural interpretation (if applicable)
  • accreditation (if applicable).

How long will it take?

Parks Eco Pass licences generally take about 2 weeks to finalise after you have submitted the required documents. Applications that relate to jointly managed parks may take longer.

Induction and reporting requirements now you are licensed

Once you become a licensed operator, you will need to meet several induction and reporting requirements.

Induction

The National Parks and Wildlife Service will meet with new Parks Eco Pass operators over the phone or in person within 3 weeks of sending out your new Parks Eco Pass licence. We will discuss business planning, cultural interpretation, conservation, safety, risk assessments, and customer feedback.

Reporting

Quarterly reporting – daily use fees

Parks Eco Pass operators must complete and provide a quarterly trip return report of the number of visitors they brought into park on their tour each month and in which national parks or reserves. Please provide the above information in the quarterly trip return report no more than 21 days after the end of each calendar quarter:

For selective licences, please ensure you complete tab 2 of the quarterly trip return report for visitor reporting purposes. You will be required to provide a report and pay for the turnover contribution fee in accordance with your licence.

Read your licence for the correct reporting requirements, which follow a separate structure to this.

Please send your daily use visitor numbers in the quarterly report via email to the Visitor Engagement and Revenue Branch at [email protected].

Comply with activity and location conditions

Parks Eco Pass operators must comply with the conditions that apply to a specific location and to each activity. These conditions are listed in the Parks Eco Pass activity and location conditions spreadsheet (XLS 391KB).

Your Parks Eco Pass licence will not contain activity- and location-specific conditions, so it is important you refer to the above spreadsheet.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service will notify you if your activity and location conditions are updated.

Comply with your licence conditions

All Parks Eco Pass operators must comply with:

The penalties for operators who do not comply with conditions are shown in the Parks Eco Pass penalties for breaching conditions spreadsheet (XLS 195KB)

Operators must also comply with all laws relating to the conduct of the operations, including but not limited to:

  • the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974
  • the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2019
  • the relevant plan of management for a national park, historic site, nature reserve, karst conservation reserve, Aboriginal area or wildlife refuge
  • any other Act, regulation or by-laws

The handbook must be read in conjunction with these conditions and law:

Selective licensing

Parks Eco Pass licences do not give licence holders priority or exclusive use of an activity or area within a national park or reserve. However, there are circumstances where National Parks and Wildlife Service may consider it necessary to issue selective licences for exclusive rights to an activity or location.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service will restrict the number of licences for any activity or location for:

  • visitor safety
  • the protection of cultural and natural values
  • sustainable management of park
  • enhanced visitor experience
  • legislative or regulative requirements.

For more information about the selective licensing process, please refer to the NSW Parks Eco Pass: operator handbook.

Renew your licence

Complete and submit the licence renewal form.

You will need to upload:

  • public liability insurance
  • letter of support to conduct Aboriginal heritage and cultural interpretation (if applicable)
  • accreditation (if applicable).
Amend your licence

Please use the licence amendment form to notify us of any proposed changes to your details, activities or locations. The National Parks and Wildlife Service needs to approve any changes. Please provide as much detail as possible to help us consider your application and submit this application at least 2 weeks before any proposed change:

How we will support you

The National Parks and Wildlife Service will provide promotional support through National Parks and Wildlife Service marketing channels, including one tour listing per Parks Eco Pass operator on the National Parks and Wildlife Service website. The National Parks and Wildlife Service will also support your promotional needs through closer engagement with our key tourism partners including regional Destination Networks, Destination NSW and Tourism Australia. 

A dedicated team is available to provide advice and support to all new and existing Parks Eco Pass operators.

Contact us

Phone: 02 9585 6082

Email: [email protected]

Contact us

Visitor Engagement and Revenue Branch

Phone: 02 9585 6082

Email: [email protected]