Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (SA) reserves for the benefit and enjoyment of the public and for the conservation of wildlife in a natural environment are created. Even though the word “national” is used in the Act, this is State legislation, and reference is to the national significance of reserves rather than any notion of them being nationally managed. The Act also covers the protection of native animals throughout the State and native plants within reserves. The Act establishes five categories of reserve.

National Parks – are areas of major national scientific or ecological value also suitable for public use.

Conservation Parks – areas not necessarily of national significance but of particular scientific or ecological value. Camping and other recreational activities are permitted but are not encouraged

Game Reserves – areas used for controlled hunting (eg. duck shooting)

Recreation Parks – areas set aside for mainly recreational use

Regional Reserves – multiple use areas, in which conservation takes place beside other controlled land use such as mining and grazing. Reserves have a fairly secure status with any abolishment or boundary change requiring a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

Management of reserves is through a process of formal Management Plans prepared by the State Department for Environment and Water and adopted by the Minister. The process of preparing management plans for reserves involves public participation through written submissions. Most of the largest and most popular reserves have management plans in place, however most small reserves do not. A complete list of the various management plans is available from the DEW.

Another statutory body involved in the development of management plans for reserves is the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Council. Other functions of the Council include advising the Minister on the management of reserves, the conservation of wildlife, funding and commercial activities in reserves, assessment of the performance of the Department for Environment and Water and the development of policy and community participation. The Council and the Minister are supported by special advisory committees which can advise on a range of wildlife management issues such as the harvesting and farming of wildlife, management plans for particular reserves or the involvement of Aboriginal people in the management of land and wildlife.