Our Latest News

Fly Neighbourly Advice for the Tasman National Park


Public comment is invited on the draft Tasman National Park Fly Neighbourly Advice. The draft Fly Neighbourly Advice has been prepared by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service in response to increasing air traffic over the Tasman National Park.More

Hybrid diesel-electric shuttle buses at Cradle Mountain - a first for National p


When you next visit Cradle Mountain you will be able to step aboard one of the new hybrid, diesel-electric, shuttle buses on your trip to Dove Lake. These new buses will reduce emissions and deliver a quieter, all mobility friendly, visitor experience.More

AFAC Independent Operational Review of the 2018-19 bushfires


Following the 2018-19 bushfires the Tasmanian Government commissioned an independent report by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Council to review the overall response and identify areas where more can be done to improve the State's response andMore

Detailed History of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service

General Order by David Collins

Lieutenant Governor David Collin's General Order of 21 February 1804

Concern for the quality of the environment and the protection of species is not restricted to today's society. Within months of the European settlement of Tasmania, the government of the day was expressing concern at the ultimate fate of local wildlife and habitats. Lieutenant Governor David Collin's General Order of 21 February 1804, for example, "cautions the people against polluting the stream by any means whatsoever" and "positively forbids [persons] going into, or destroying the underwood adjacent to the water, under pain of being severly punished."

A similar General Order dated 10 March 1804, finds the Lieutenant Governor of the

"understanding that the number of Swans at the upper part of the Derwent River is considerably diminished, through their having been of late much much harassed and disturbed, and that it is more than probable that the resource which they might have otherwise proved will totally fail unless some steps are taken to prevent it, particularly at this season when the females are known to be full of eggs; directs that...no person in, or belonging to this settlement, do send any boat, or employ any means any further, to molest these Birds, which, if a proper attention is paid to this Order may return to their usual haunts."

Such prohibitions were largely utilitarian in nature, aimed to ensure that precious natural resources remained intact for subsequent exploitation by the struggling colony. Indeed, land reservation both in Tasmania and most other parts of the world has largely been based on protecting natural environments to satisfy human needs rather than respect for the intrinsic value of the environment itself.

With the increasing urbanisation of the western world during the course of the 19th century came the first attempts to protect and reserve natural areas. Such efforts initially concentrated on small scale parks within cities, such as Victoria Park in London (1842) -- the first public park in England, and Central Park in New York (1853). The Romantic Movement, particularly in the literary world, gave further impetus to the concept of preserving areas of natural land. Set against this social climate, and through the determination of early American conservationists, the world's first national park -- Yellowstone -- was created in 1872. Australia created the world's second national park, Royal National Park near Sydney, in 1879.

In 1863, land in Tasmania was first set aside as 'reserves for scenic purposes'. These reservations were made under the Waste Lands Act  of 1863 and subsequently under the Crown lands Act . By 1899 Tasmania had 12 reserves: six scenery reserves, three cave reserves, two falls reserves and a fernery reserve.

Our First National Parks - the Scenery Preservation Board

Scenery Preservation Board

The establishment of early reserves was linked with the feeling that Tasmania's scenic viewpoints were of tourism value. In 1885 an area of 300 acres was reserved at Russell Falls. However, national park status had to wait until the Government passed more comprehensive scenery preservation legislation in 1915, and with this the establishment of the Scenery Preservation Board.

The 1915/1916 annual report of the Department of Lands and Surveys, under whose jurisdiction the Board fell, reported:

'there has been much need of reform in this direction, before the valuable kangaroo and splendidly-furred opossums (now fast disappearing) became extinct.'

Yet the Board was responsible only for the protection of flora and the preservation of scenery and, after the late 1950s, the control of roadside advertising boards. It was not responsible for the protection of fauna.

The Scenery Preservation Board was the first authority in Australia to be set up for the creation and management of parks and reserves. Yet, ironically, Tasmania was the last of the Australian states to establish a National Park.

On 29 August 1916, Mt Field -- known until 1937 simply as National Park -- and Freycinet became Tasmania's first national parks. Six years later, following long campaigning by Gustav Weindorfer and others, a scenic reserve and wildlife sanctuary covering an area of 63 900 ha were established between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair.

The Board was often constrained by insufficient funding. The budget for the 1925/6 financial year, for example, totalled £29. As a result, only voluntary labour could be used. Combined with a lack of powers to administer and protect the land entrusted to its care, the Board sometimes suffered from being tied administratively and monetarily to the Lands Department.

Animals and Birds Protection Board

Animals and Birds Protection Board

Prior to 1928 fauna was protected by the Crown Lands and Police Departments. In view of the economic value of the trade in the furs of native animals and the need to safeguard against over exploitation of this resource, the Animals and Birds Protection Act  was passed in 1928. This led to the creation of a Board to administer the Act and to represent all interests concerned with native fauna. The Police Department enforced the Act.

An early poster from the Animals and Birds Protection Board

The work of the Board included publishing leaflets and posters which gave advice on the correct method of pegging animal skins to dry and a series of posters to educate the public on the value of native birds as Nature's 'pest controllers'.

Wildlife sanctuaries were proclaimed and applications to declare sanctuaries were investigated. The Board monitored and guarded significant wildlife habitats. Efforts were made to protect the dwindling gannet population on Cat Island (Furneaux Group) and studies showed the importance of Moulting Lagoon as a major black swan breeding ground.

In the 1930s and 1940s the Board introduced the lyrebird to Mt Field National Park and Hastings Caves State Reserve. This was an effort to prevent the feared extinction of the species. Its numbers were declining on mainland Australia in the face of habitat reduction and predation by the European fox -- a fate which has led to the extinction of many mainland species. 

As is the case with many introduced species, the action has had detrimental consequences. The range of the bird has increased and the invertebrate fauna of forest leaf-litter has been impacted.

Lake Pedder

The late 1960s and early 70s saw increasing community concern over proposals to develop dams for power generation in the south-west wilderness. While there was increasing support for the reservation of south-west Tasmania, the conservation-versus-development debate flared with the proposal to flood Lake Pedder, the jewel in the Crown of the south-west wilderness.

Public feeling on this issue ran high. The world's first politically-based green party -- the United Tasmania Group -- was formed in an attempt to prevent the incumbent Government's push to flood Lake Pedder. The Legislative Council set up a Select Committee, which was ultimately unable to save Lake Pedder but which revealed that Tasmania lacked qualified officers in the fields of park management and wildlife conservation. It recommended a new system of managing the natural environment and particularly the establishment of a professional park service.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service


The National Parks and Wildlife Service commenced operations on 1 November 1971 with a staff of 59. The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1970  repealed the Scenery Preservation Act 1915  and the Animals and Birds Protection Act 1928 . Under the new Act provisions were made for the establishment and management of national parks and other reserves and the conservation of flora and fauna.

Despite limited resources, the Service got off to a vigorous start under the directorship of Mr Peter Murrell, who worked in this role until his retirement in 1990. The Director's role included responsibility for the development of land for conservation purposes, managing reserved land, preparing management plans, carrying out research and other activities relating to the conservation of flora and fauna, providing education facilities and enforcing regulations under the Act.

The early years of the Service saw the creation of the Mt William, Maria Island and Asbestos Range (renamed Narawntapu) National Parks and the proclamation of Macquarie Island as a nature reserve. The establishment of the Mt William National Park provided a secure habitat for the endangered Forester kangaroo. Another endangered animal whose management was secured during this time was the Cape Barren goose.

In 1975 Aboriginal heritage became protected under the Aboriginal Relics Act.  This was followed by the formation of an Archaeology Section to survey and protect Aboriginal heritage. In the same year the use of snares to take brushtail possums was forbidden and seals became fully protected. In the following year the impressive mountain of Precipitous Bluff was saved from proposed limestone mining and included in the Southwest National Park.

In 1982 the federal Historic Shipwrecks Act  came into force in Tasmanian waters.

The Beginnings of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area

Developments in conservation mirrored growing world-wide community feeling for conservation of the environment. Locally, the conservation movement was growing and becoming increasingly active, with organisations such as the Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation playing major roles in campaigning for the conservation of natural areas threatened by proposed development. The conservation-versus-development debate was on the boil again; this time the most significant issue was undoubtedly the proposed Lower Gordon hydro-electric power scheme, publicly announced in 1979, which would have flooded the Franklin River.

The issue came to dominate not just Tasmanian but Australian politics. During this debate the Service was sometimes at odds with the Government of the day, other Government instrumentalities and the conservation movement. Out of the controversy came the Franklin-Lower Gordon Wild Rivers National Park which was proclaimed in 1981. This was followed by World Heritage listing of the three large, contiguous western wilderness national parks in 1982. In 1983, an historic high court decision prevented the construction of the dam.

Department of Lands, Parks and Wildlife


On 1 May 1987 the National Parks and Wildlife Service was amalgamated with the Department of Lands to form the Department of Lands, Parks and Wildlife. The following month, the old Service relocated from Magnet Court in Sandy Bay to their present premises in the Lands Building, at 134 Macquarie St.

During this period the World Heritage Area Directed Wildlife Research program commenced, amassing information on the previously little-known ecosystems of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Research into erosion of the banks of the lower Gordon River began to shed light on the cause of the problem, while wildlife scientists were revealing the impacts of longline fishery operations on seabird populations. In 1988 the Whale Protection Act  came into force, which included arrangements for dealing with whale strandings.

Parks, Wildlife and Heritage


The Department of Lands, Parks and Wildlife was altered in 1989 to create the Department of Environment and Planning and Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage. This latter Department, now with a staff of 300, managed not just land reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act  but also under the Crown lands Act  of 1976, as well as providing for the conservation of wildlife and of Aboriginal and historic heritage. The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority were also part of the Department.

In 1989 the Douglas-Apsley National Park was proclaimed, thereby preserving an area of the dry sclerophyll forests which characterise the east of the state. Significant additions were made to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, particularly with the inclusion of the Central Plateau Conservation Area. These additions brought the World Heritage Area to its current size of 1.38 million hectares, or approximately 20% of Tasmania. The first of the State's major Visitor Centres was opened at Cradle Mountain in December 1989.

In 1990, Tasmania's first marine reserves were established at Maria Island, Governor Island, Tinderbox and Ninepins Point. The following year a recovery program for the threatened forty-spotted pardalote commenced.



On 3 February 1993, the Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage amalgamated with the Department of Environment and Land Management (DELM). The Parks and Wildlife Service became a division within DELM.

The years within DELM saw significant changes and achievements for the Service. The introduction of park fees on 1 May 1993 allowed funding for a range of projects aimed at enhancing the quality of experience for visitors. The first underwater nature trail in the southern hemisphere was established at the Tinderbox Marine Nature Trail. Two major Visitor Centres opened, one on the west coast at Strahan in 1992, and one atLake St Clair.

In 1995 the Threatened Species Protection Bill  was passed. Over 600 species are currently listed in the schedules of the Act, with many more species in danger of becoming included on these lists. Within the Service, a Threatened Species Unit has recently been created to implement the Act.

An Aboriginal Heritage Unit was established within the Service to provide training for Aboriginal community members, who will then advise on Aboriginal heritage management in the State, while 11 parcels of land previously managed by the Service were transferred to the interim Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania.


Following the appointment of a new Director of National Parks and Wildlife, Mr Max Kitchell, in early 1996, the Service underwent a major restructuring which resulted in the rationalisation of the four previous management areas and 23 management districts into two divisions and eight districts. On 1 November 1996, the Service celebrated its 25th Birthday with a week-long program of activities for the public. The Service established its Internet presence in early 1996, and substantially expanded its Web Site in early 1998. Its expansion continues.

In December 1996 the Mole Creek Karst National Park, which provides protection for some of the finest and most visited cave systems in the State, was gazetted. Tasmania's system of national parks was further expanded with the creation of the South Bruny National Park, gazetted in October 1997.

The Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) was signed by the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments in November 1997. As part of this agreement, an additional 396,000 hectares of public land were added to Tasmania's reserves, expanding the amount of public land in reserves by 17%. New reserves were proclaimed under the Tasmanian RFA, including extensions to the Mount William National Park, Freycinet National Park and the creation of theTasman National Park and Savage River National Park.

Some 6 000 hectares of new State Reserves, some 25 000 hectares of new Conservation Areas and some 30 000 hectares of new Regional reserves were created and some 183 000 hectares of new Forest Reserves, managed by Forestry Tasmania, have been created.

At the same time some 70 000 hectares of reserves, which also had dual status as State Forest, have been revoked (including the Tooms Lake Wildlife Sanctuary and parts of the Southwest Conservation Area) to enable the areas to be available for forestry development under a single land tenure.



Following the election of a Labor Government in September 1998, the Department of Environment and Land Management (of which the Parks and Wildlife Sevice was a division) amalgamated with the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and the Government Analytical and Forensic Laboratories (GAFL) to become the Department of Primary industries, Water and Environment (DPIWE).

Subsequently, the Parks and Wildlife Service was divided into two separate divisions. The Resource Management and Conservation Division managed and conserved Tasmania's natural and cultural resources including: land; flora; fauna; geoheritage; and historic and Aboriginal sites. The Parks and Wildlife Service was the division responsible for the management of Tasmania's parks, reserves and World Heritage Areas, including the delivery of interpretation services and Crown land administration.

Major Visitor Centres have been developed at Mt Field National Park, Hastings Caves State Reserve and Freycinet National Park.

In 2001, introduced foxes were sighted in the Longford area of the State and subsequent sightings suggested that the species may become established in Tasmania. The establishment of foxes in the State would represent the major environmental threat yet to befall Tasmania. In late 2001, a fox taskforce was set up to try and eradicate the pest.

In 2001 the PWS website was altered to reflect the Departmental amalgamation.



Following the 2002 State elections, the Parks and Wildlife Service was separated from the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment and placed within the Department of Tourism, Parks, Heritage and the Arts (DTPHA), while the Resource Management and Conservation Division remained with the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment. At that time, a review of the 1970 National Parks and Wildlife Act had commenced and was hastily finalised leading to the Nature Conservation Act 2002 (NCA) and National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 (NPRMA). The NCA provides for the conservation and protection of the fauna, flora and geological diversity of the State, and for the declaration of national parks and other reserved land whereas the NPRMA essentially provides for the management of national parks and other reserved land.

Major developments in recent times include the construction of the Narawntapu National Park Visitor Centre, and redevelopment of the transport infrastructure at Cradle Mountain , including a walkway from the Visitor Centre to Lake Dove.

The most recent national park to be declared is the Kent Group National Park , gazetted in 2002, and which consists of three main Islands, Deal, Erith and Dover.

In 2004 the PWS website was altered to reflect the Departmental amalgamation and in April 2005 the Parks and Wildlife Service moved from six districts to three regions, with three new regional managers in place. This realignment of the PWS administrative structure is aimed at making the service better aligned to the Natural Resources Management regions and local government areas in Tasmania as well as improving management responsiveness and effectiveness. DTAE In April 2006 the Department incorporated the Environment Division from Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment. This lead to a renaming of the Department to the Department of Tourism, Arts and the Environment In November 2005 the Overland Track booking system was introduced. The booking system helps to reduce the extent and occurrence of overcrowding at campsites, provides a better experience for walkers and reduces environmental impacts on this popular walking track.



In early 2008 the Parks and Wildlife Service became a unit within the Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts (DEPHA). DEPHA's mission is to enhance Tasmania's economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing, both now and in the future, through the best possible use and management of our natural and cultural assets.

In September 2008, the Parks and Wildlife Service launched its new web site.



The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment came into being on 1 July 2009. The new Department includes staff and functions from the former Department of Primary Industries and Water, and from the former Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts.

In 2010, the significance of the convict probation era at Darlington, Maria Island, was recognised when listed as part of the 11 Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property.

As of 2011, the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program is currently underway to remove rabbits, rats and mice from this remote sub-Antarctic island. The eradication of these animals is now the highest conservation priority for the reserve, and is the largest island eradication program for rabbits, rats or mice ever attempted, and one of the largest conservation projects in Tasmania.