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About the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA)


Map of South Australia showing Woomera Prohibited Area
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The Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) covers an area of 122,000 square kilometres approximately 450 km NNW of Adelaide.

The WPA has been declared a Prohibited Area under Part VII of the Defence Force Regulations 1952 and is used for 'the testing of war material' under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force.

In 2011 a joint Australian Government—South Australian Government WPA Coordination Office (WPACO) was established to administer non-Defence use of the WPA, including the development of new management framework arrangements that support co-existence between Defence and non-Defence users within the WPA.

In August 2014 the new statutory access regime for new non-Defence users in the WPA came into force with the passage of the Defence Legislation Amendment (Woomera Prohibited Area) Act 2014 by the Australian Parliament. It amends the Defence Act 1903 (Cth) by inserting Part VIB of the Defence Act and sets out a permit system, the access management zones with defined exclusion periods, new compliance and enforcement measures, compensation, and a process for review of decisions. The administrative details of the new statutory permit system are contained in the WPA Rule 2014.

Note that the new permit system to access the WPA applies to new non-Defence users including resource exploration and mining companies, opal miners, tourists and environmental/research organisations. Existing mines (Challenger, Prominent Hill, Cairn Hill and Peculiar Knob), pastoralists, Aboriginal persons and traditional owners are defined as existing users whose access will continue to be governed by the Defence Force Regulations 1952.

Two reviews are under way to evaluate the effectiveness of the WPA Rule 2014, including all policies and procedures, along with a review of the WPA Advisory Board. More information about the reviews is available from the Australian Government's Business Consultation Hub.

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WPA access zones

Woomera Protected Area access zones
WPA access zones
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Under the new management framework the WPA has been divided into four access zones (Red, Amber Zone 1, Amber Zone 2 and Green) offering different levels of access to non-Defence users.

Each management zone has exclusion periods during which Defence may undertake testing activities. Access during an exclusion period will not be permitted.

  • Red Zone: continuous use by Defence therefore no public access or resource tenements or activity is permitted.
  • Amber Zones: Defence can exclude on-ground access to all non-Defence users for specified periods of time; for Amber Zone 1 up to 140 days in a year; for Amber Zone 2 up to 70 days.
  • Green Zone: non-Defence users may be excluded for up to 56 days in a year.

Detailed descriptions of the access zones are available from www.defence.gov.au/woomera/zones.htm

Exclusion periods

The Amber Zone exclusion periods are published in March of each year showing the access restrictions which apply during the following financial year (i.e. 1 July to 30 June).

Restrictions that may take place in parts of the Green Zone are notified at least 6 months in advance for resource production permit holders and a minimum of 21 days prior to the activity for all other users.

More information: www.defence.gov.au/woomera/exclusionperiods.htm

Remaining exclusion period for the 2016-17 financial year

Amber Zone South-Eastern Corner (Defence Periodic Use Amber Zone 1)
  • 14 May – 30 June 2017
Amber Zone Centre-line Corridor (Defence Periodic Use Amber Zone 2); note that this includes a section of the Anne Beadell Highway
  • 11 June – 30 June 2017

Exclusion periods for the 2017-18 financial year

Amber Zone South-Eastern Corner (Defence Periodic Use Amber Zone 1)
  • 02 July – 15 July 2017
  • 09 October – 09 December 2017
  • 25 February – 31 March 2018
  • 13 May – 30 June 2018
Amber Zone Centre-line Corridor (Defence Periodic Use Amber Zone 2)
  • 02 July – 15 July 2017
  • 12 November – 09 December 2017
  • 25 February – 31 March 2018
Green Zone (Infrequent Use Amber Zone)
  • 11 June – 30 June 2017

Persons who hold an existing access permission under the Defence Force Regulations 1952 should contact the Woomera Test Range on +61 8 8674 3370 or email woomera.enquiries@defence.gov.au to discuss access to the Periodic Amber Zones 1 or 2 during the upcoming exclusion periods.

Public right of access

Separate to the Green, Amber and Red access zones, the Defence Minister under the WPA Rule has granted a standing permission for people to access the Central Australian railway line, the Stuart Highway, the William Creek to Coober Pedy Road, the Lake Cadibarrawirracanna Road (also known as Public Access Route 18), the Olympic Dam Highway (B97) and the Woomera Village. The Defence Minister may however suspend the standing permission over these access routes and close them temporarily when required for the testing of war material.

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Procedure for entry to the WPA

Access to the WPA for exploration and mining is governed by a Permit issued by the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office (WPACO).

Companies seeking access for mineral exploration or mining activities to the WPA must:

  1. Hold a licence or lease issued by the South Australian Department of State Development.
  2. Obtain a Resource Exploration Access Permit (Form W001) or Resource Production Access (Mining) Permit (Form W002).
  3. Ensure that all persons entering the WPA under the permit hold an Approved Person status (Form W003) or are an Escorted Person (Form W004).
  4. Request access permission for each instance of access to the WPA using the Access Form (Form W007).

For opal mining and precious stone prospecting in the WPA under the Opal Mining Act 1995, an applicant must hold a Precious Stones Prospecting Permit issued by the SA Department of State Development and an Opal Mining and Precious Stone Prospecting Access Permit (Form W006) issued by the Woomera Test Range. The Opal Mining and Precious Stone Prospecting Access Permits are valid for 12 months.

Applicable forms can be downloaded from the WPACO website on www.defence.gov.au/woomera/forms.htm

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Woomera Restricted Airspace (WRX) - new spatial layer available on SARIG

The WRX layer available from the South Australian Resources Information Gateway shows the restricted airspace above the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) and forms part of the RAAF Woomera Test Range (WTR). The layer is a helpful tool when planning to conduct airborne surveys and other airspace-related activities over the WPA.

The layer is divided into individual Restricted Areas (blocks). One or a combination of Restricted Areas can be activated (i.e. airspace above that portion of the WPA becomes restricted) when testing of war material is taking place during an exclusion period.

For more information about the WRX contact WTR on +61 8 8674 3370.

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For more information, contact:

Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office (WPACO)

Phone: 1300 727 420
International: +612 6265 4448
Fax: (02) 6265 5878
Email: WPACO@defence.gov.au
Address:
WPA Coordination Office
Department of Defence
PO Box 7901
Canberra ACT 2610
Woomera Test Range

Phone: Range Operations Office Woomera (08) 8674 3370
International: +618 8674 3370
Fax: (08) 8674 3217
Email for tourist permit applications: woomera.enquiries@defence.gov.au
Address:
Woomera Test Range
PO Box 157
Woomera SA 5720