Using vehicles and aircraft in QPWS areas

There are a range of different vehicles and machines used in QPWS areas:

  • Vehicles such as cars, four-wheel drives, motorbikes and bicycles are commonly used for transport on roads and tracks in QPWS areas.
  • Aircraft including planes, helicopters and drones. Restrictions apply to the use of aircraft in some areas.
  • Recreational craft are devices used in QPWS areas for recreational purposes and include hang gliders and hot-air balloons. Approval is required prior to using recreational craft in QPWS areas, other than State forests.

There are a number of provisions in the regulations about the use of vehicles, recreational craft and aircraft to ensure their use is safe and in keeping with the management requirements of QPWS areas. Amendments are proposed to contemporise these provisions and ensure they address emerging issues and types of vehicles and machines being used.


Issue: Removing requirements to display vehicle tags for recreation areas

Current issue

  • Before a person takes a vehicle into a QPWS managed recreation area, they must obtain a Vehicle Access Permit and display a vehicle tag provided by QPWS as evidence of the permit on their vehicle.
  • Automatic Number Plate Recognition System cameras now operate in most QPWS managed recreation areas, making the manual inspection of vehicle tags on vehicles redundant.
  • Minjerribah and Mulgumpin recreation areas, which are managed by the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, do not currently have number plate recognition cameras.

Proposed change

  • Vehicle tags will not need to be displayed on a vehicle in QPWS managed recreation areas, however a printed copy of the vehicle tag or a copy of the tag on a device screen will still be required to be produced on request of a Ranger - this will allow compliance to occur in circumstances where the camera systems are not in place or not operating.
  • On Moreton Island and Minjerribah Recreation areas, visitors will continue to be required to display a vehicle tag on the vehicle as cameras are not in place.

Issue: Aligning offences for unregistered vehicles (including motorbikes) in QPWS areas

Current issue

  • It is generally an offence to drive or ride an unregistered vehicle in protected areas, recreation areas and forests. These vehicles are often used off-road and sometimes create new tracks.
  • In State forests, it is also an offence to bring an unregistered vehicle into an area, which enables compliance officers to intercept people loading/unloading unregistered vehicles such as trail bikes, prior to or after them being used.

Proposed change

  • For protected areas and recreation areas it is proposed to introduce an offence equivalent to the existing offence for bringing an unregistered vehicle into a State forest to enable a consistent regulatory framework across all QPWS areas.

Issue: Requiring vehicle number plates to be clearly displayed in QPWS areas

Current issue

  • QPWS uses automatic number plate recognition system cameras to detect unlawful vehicle use, such as in some recreation areas to verify that the vehicle has the required Vehicle Access Permit.
  • Deliberate removal of number plates or deliberate concealment occurs at times by visitors seeking to evade detection. There are also circumstances where the number plates are dirty, damaged, or accidentally covered and unable to be read.
  • It is already an offence under transport legislation for failing to ensure a vehicle number plate is clearly legible and attached to the vehicle.
  • Currently QPWS need to provide details of offences to the Queensland Police Service who them issue penalty infringement notices (fines). This is administratively inefficient.

Proposed change

  • It is proposed to insert the same offence into the QPWS legislation, allowing Rangers to take compliance action and issue fines on the spot when necessary.

Issue: Road rule consistency for e-scooters and e-skateboards in QPWS areas

Current issue

  • The term ‘personal mobility device’ refers to devices such as e-scooters and e-skateboards, which are becoming increasingly popular in Queensland.
  • From 1 November 2022, the Queensland Road Rules introduced a range of new offences for people using personal mobility devices.
  • E-scooters and e-skateboards are generally not allowed on walking tracks and bicycle trails in QPWS areas.

Proposed change

  • To ensure the safe use of personal mobility devices in QPWS areas (where allowed), it is proposed to introduce the same offences as those already in place under transport legislation regarding not wearing an approved helmet, and for carrying a passenger on a personal mobility device. This will enable these matters to be enforced by Rangers who are often the only compliance presence in places such as national parks.

Issue: Passenger safety for quad bikes and utility off-road vehicles in QPWS areas

Current issue

  • Conditionally registered vehicles such as quad bikes and off-road utility vehicles may be used in limited circumstances with the relevant approvals in QPWS areas. However, existing legislation is not aligned with the Queensland Road Rules.

Proposed change

  • To ensure the safe use of these vehicles in QPWS areas, it is proposed to introduce offences that can be enforced by Rangers that are consistent with the Queensland Road Rules for riding or driving this type of vehicle with a passenger which require:
    • the passenger to be older than eight years old


    • for a quad bike – the passenger’s feet must be able reach the pillion passenger footrests while seated (for a quad bike);
    • for a utility off road vehicle – the passenger’s feet must be able to be placed flat on the floor while seated


    • the passenger, while seated, must be able to hold onto the vehicle’s handrail (if any).


Issue: Update regulations for drone use, including prohibiting recreational use in some QPWS areas

Current issue

  • The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has estimated that there may be more than 1.2 million drones in operation in Australia.
  • All drone use must comply with CASA’s drone safety rules, however CASA does not have an on ground compliance presence.
  • Flying drones for recreational purposes in QPWS areas has increased over time now that drones are relatively affordable and easily accessible from major retailers.
  • In QPWS areas recreational drone use does not require a permit, but research use and some commercial use does.
  • Drones can negatively impact the environmental and cultural values in some locations, such as bird nesting sites, sacred cultural sites and affect the amenity and enjoyment of other people.
  • All other Australian states /territories prohibit or otherwise restrict recreational drone use in national parks.

Proposed change

  • It is proposed to enable prohibition of recreational drone use in specific locations in response to impacts on cultural or natural values, or other management needs. Drone use for commercial and research purposes would be subject to a permit in areas where recreational use is prohibited. Where there are no site-specific restrictions, recreational drone use would continue under current arrangements. Drone safety rules will also be introduced to align with some existing CASA safety requirements. This will enable QPWS authorised officers to ensure visitor safety, such as no flying drones over or above people, or within 30 metres of people.

Issue: Update regulations on minimum aircraft flying height allowed by aircraft, including drones, in some protected areas

Current issue

  • Some protected areas contain natural and cultural values that may be affected by low-flying aircraft, e.g. nesting or roosting seabirds, cultural values / amenity.
  • The current regulation provides the ability to restrict the minimum flying height of aircraft to manage impacts on protected areas, other than with a permit.
  • Additional locations need to be added to the existing list.

Proposed change

It is proposed to prescribe the following additional protected areas to have a minimum flying height for aircraft, including drones, of 1,500 feet (457m):

  • D’Aguilar National Park
  • Glasshouse Mountains National Park
  • Lamington National Park
  • Mount Barney National Park
  • Springbrook National Park.
  • Great Barrier Reef Islands:
    • Barnard Island Group National Park – Sisters Island, Stephens Island
    • Capricornia Cays National Park (scientific) – One Tree island
    • Claremont Isles National Park – Pelican Island
    • Howick Group National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) – Combe Island, Stapleton Island
    • Michaelmas and Upulous Cays National Park – Michaelmas Cay
    • Raine Island National Park (scientific) - MacLennan Cay, Moulter Cay, Raine Island
    • Sandbanks National Park – Sandbank No. 7, Sandbank No. 8
    • Swain Reefs National Park - Bacchi Cay, Bell Cay, Bylund Cay, Distant Cay, Frigate Cay, Gannett Cay, Price Cay, Riptide Cay, Thomas Cay.

An exemption will apply for the use of aircraft as part of an emergency response such as for a medical evacuation, search and rescue or firefighting.

Recreational craft

Issue: Update the definition of recreational craft to regulate use of kite buggies and land windsurfing boards in recreation areas

Current issue

  • Recreational craft are regulated to enable appropriate arrangements (through the use of permits) are in place in areas where there is shared use and safety, visitor use and amenity need to be coordinated and managed.
  • Currently for recreation areas kite buggies and land windsurfing boards, are not included in the definition of recreational craft. However, they are included in the legislation used to manage protected areas. While currently use of such craft is low, one of the objectives of this review is to achieve consistency across the legislation used to manage QPWS areas.
  • In protected areas, recreational craft means
    • a hot air balloon
    • a hang-glider
    • a paraglider
    • an ultralight aircraft
    • a kite buggy, a land windsurfing board; or another craft or device prescribed by regulation to be a recreational craft.

Proposed change

  • It is proposed to include kite buggies and land windsurfing boards in the definition of recreational craft under recreation area legislation, for consistency with protected areas.
  • This will make the future use of such craft subject to permitting requirements in recreation areas, the same as currently applies in protected areas.

Frequently used terms

‘Private protected areas’ – means nature refuges and special wildlife reserves.

‘Protected areas’ – means national parks, national parks (scientific), national parks (Aboriginal land), national parks (Torres Strait Islander land), national parks (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal land), conservation parks and resources reserves.

‘QPWS regulations’ – means the Nature Conservation (Protected Areas Management) Regulation 2017, the Recreation Areas Management Regulation 2017 and the Forestry Regulation 2015.

‘Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) area’ – means protected areas such as national parks (excluding private protected areas), recreation areas and State forests and timber reserves established under the Nature Conservation Act 1992,the Recreation Areas Management Act 2006 and the Forestry Act 1959 respectively.

‘Recreation areas’ - Queensland has seven recreation areas established under the Recreation Areas Management Act 2006. Recreation areas are managed either solely by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service or in partnership with others. Recreation areas are K’gari (Fraser Island), Green Island, Bribie Island, Inskip Peninsula, Cooloola, Mulgumpin (Moreton Island), Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island). Mulgumpin and Minjerribah recreation areas are managed jointly with the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC).

Regulatory notice’ – these are a type of sign that Rangers place in protected areas. There are rules about where and when regulatory signs can be used, and what content they can contain. Regulatory notices are typically used by Rangers to regulate certain activities in particular places to enable appropriate park management.

Providing feedback

To provide feedback on the proposed changes:

  • Complete the online survey available at the department’s consultation page by 5pm on 6 December 2023