The jurisdiction of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 is not limited to Commonwealth marine areas as defined by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999; it applies to waters, including coastal waters, beyond the seaward limits of the Australian States and also includes the harbors and estuarine waters of the Northern Territory. A planning approval granted under other State, Northern Territory or Commonwealth legislation may not have taken into account the requirements of the Underwater Heritage Act.
What are my responsibilities?
The requirements of the Underwater Heritage Act must be considered when applying for any State, Northern Territory or Commonwealth planning approval for actions or developments in all coastal and offshore waters.
When undertaking actions in the marine environment, proponents and their contractors must adhere to all requirements of the Underwater Heritage Act including:
- do not take actions that impact on underwater heritage without a permit;
- observe the requirements of protected zones and obtain a permit to enter or operate in a protected zone if its required; and
- provide a notification of the discovery of any suspected underwater heritage identified during the course of the proposed action within 21 days of the discovery.
How can I assess the risk?
Any actions involving contact with the seabed, or activities in close proximity to the seabed, have the potential to impact underwater heritage. Other activities may include the risk of causing indirect impacts to underwater heritage.
It is strongly recommended that professional advice is sought and risk mitigation strategies developed to prevent committing an offence. More detailed advice on how to identify and mitigate risks are included in Departments publication Underwater Cultural Heritage Guidance for Offshore Developments.
How do I apply for a Permit or report a discovery?
Permit applications and notifications of discoveries can be made through the Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database through the following links:
- Permit application for entry into a protected zone or to impact underwater cultural heritage
- Notification of discovery of underwater cultural heritage
Who can help with advice?
There are specialist staff located at State, Territory or Commonwealth heritage agencies who can assist you with advice. Your enquiries should be sent to UnderwaterHeritage@environment.gov.au and it will be directed to the person best able to provide assistance.