A first for South Africa: Online applications for biodiversity permits

Posted on 1 Mar 2019

Many of our clients at ENVASS sometimes require biodiversity permits – ranging from moving cycads, obtaining permits to keep them, hunting permits, permits for the transport of certain species and so on.


In the past, this has been a challenging process if you didn’t know exactly who to talk to (and where).  The provincial government departments who handle these types of permit applications are often inundated with work and often have insufficient resources to efficiently handle permit applications.


The North West Department of Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development (READ) rolled out a new online application system (called “NIPAS”) and ENVASS tried it out to see if it really is as efficient as READ claims.


  • Our impressions:

The login / registration screen is simple and very easy to use (see below)



We found the registration process quick, efficient and not at all complicated.  Once logged in, the system will only ask some basic details which are easily filled in online.  An individual can apply for any biodiversity permit themselves, or an environmental consultant can apply for all permits required for their clients as a proxy.


The best news of all, most permits cost only R50.00 and the system makes it extremely easy to upload proof of payment and all relevant supporting documentation.


Once applied, the case officer regularly replies via a dialogue box for each application – keeping both the client and consultant informed on the progress of the application and will ask if any new information is required.


When ENVASS tested the system, the case officer (also a green scorpion of the region) phoned personally to clarify some aspects and to arrange a site inspection.


The experience is made easier with the ‘dashboard’ style interface the application portal has.  Showing progress, any new messages received and all applications, their details and more.


See an overview of the dashboard below.



An example of the dialogue section of the application – showing how often the case officer communicates and system messages that are sent every time the application reaches a new stage:



In our test application, one of our consultants applied for permits for the possession of plants (that require permits) he purchased from the nursery.  Some plants purchased from nurseries require additional permits as the ones issued by nurseries are actually just “nursery permits” and not the actual permits to possess a living plant.


To our surprise, the application, site visit and issuing of the licence took less than a month (and cost only R50.00).  When a permit is issued, the details on the application will provide a download link for the permit with a password – so that only the applicant can open it (see below).  The PDF permit is also secured – meaning no alterations can be made to it unless if it is done by the competent authority after review.



For now, the system is only available for the North West Province, but ENVASS believes if it continues to be as successful as it has been since its launch in April last year, the system will be rolled out for more and more provinces.


Should our clients in the North West Province require assistance with the application for biodiversity permits (of any type), please contact our North West Regional Office at:


Tel: 012 880 1535 / 012 460 9768 or send us an email at info@envass.co.za


Alternatively, come visit us at 5 Baldwin Street, Office 14 Baldwin Place, Schoemansville, Hartbeespoort.


The permit issued for ENVASS’ test application can be seen below.  Some information has been redacted to protect the privacy of our consultant.