Permit requirements for protected areas, recreation areas and forests

You need to apply and be approved for a Commercial Activity Permit (CAP) to conduct activities for commercial gain in a national park or other protected area in Queensland. If your activity is designed to make a profit, gain or benefit, this includes some fundraising activities by not-for-profit organisations.

A CAP can be offered for a minimum of 3 months or up to a maximum of 3 years. The holder of the CAP can apply to have it renewed through Online services.

Activities requiring a CAP

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) uses the following criteria to assess whether you need a permit. You will need a CAP if the:

  • primary purpose of the activity is to make a profit
  • activity, tour, course or transport is provided free of charge, but in conjunction with another commercial product or service
  • service is being provided by someone who is being compensated or paid a fee (e.g. a tour guide or group leader)
  • activity is ongoing or regular
  • entry or participation fee is being collected over and above those costs associated with conducting the activity
  • activity is open to the general public as well as a specific membership group.

To help you determine if your proposed activity is a commercial activity requiring a CAP, read the Operational Policy – Commercial tourism and recreation activities in QPWS managed areas (PDF, 349KB).

Examples of activities requiring a CAP include:

  • guided tours
  • events
  • filming and photography
  • canoeing, rafting or kayaking
  • fundraising and charitable events
  • hang-gliding or paragliding
  • scenic flights
  • vending (e.g. mobile food vending)
  • scuba diving
  • motorised activities.

Learn more about applying for a CAP in national parks and protected areas.

Commercial Activity Permit: Standard guided tour

This authority grants immediate access to pre-approved QPWS locations. The authority is for conducting a guided walking tour with a small group of paying participants. These additional activities can be included under a standard guided tour application:

  • nature study
  • photography
  • spotlighting
  • cycling
  • watercraft (non-motorised)
  • motorised (4WD and motorcycle)
  • camping.

Learn more about the standard guided tour permit.

Great Barrier Reef – Roving Commercial Activity Permit

This authority grants immediate access to a large number and a wide range of island national parks within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, with specific conditions relating to some of these national parks, for example seasonal restrictions, group size limits and booking requirements.

Read the sample Roving Commercial Activity Permit (PDF, 910KB) carefully and familiarise yourself with the nature of the access before lodging the completed application.

Commercial permissions also apply to marine parks. Learn more about marine park permits.

State plantation forests

If you only want to operate in a state plantation forest, you should apply to HQPlantations for a permit.

If you want to operate in a state plantation forest and a national park, state forest or recreation area, you only need to apply to QPWS.

Public transport services

A CAP is not required for a public transport service, with regular routes and timetables or where passengers pay individual fares, that travels through a national park or other protected area.

Recreation activities

Private groups and individuals involved in recreational or educational activities, other than for commercial purposes, do not require a CAP. Examples include bushwalking or nature study, group activities, recreational hang-gliding, weddings, public meetings or research activities. However, you may require an organised event permit.

Learn more about recreational activities in national parks and protected areas.

Education groups – no daily site fees

Commercial tour operators taking an approved educational group, including school groups, on a commercial tour are exempt from paying daily per person fees for their educational group clients.

Legal considerations

The following laws and regulations apply to commercial activities in protected areas.

Also consider...