Sustainable land management audit
The NSW Government’s sustainable land management reforms comprise a broad range of actions across government that will contribute to achieving a balanced approach to rural land management and biodiversity conservation.
We audited Local Land Services’ implementation of aspects of these reforms relating to the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (NSW) and the associated amendments to the Local Land Services Act 2013. Local Land Services' Sustainable Land Management (SLM) group is the body responsible for administering the new rural Land Management Framework, including providing extension and support to landholders, as part of the reforms.
In October 2018, we provided its final report to the then Minister for Primary Industries.
Overall, we found that the SLM group has comprehensive systems and processes for providing accurate, consistent and timely advice. These findings include:
- The SLM group’s systems are largely consistent with the NSW Ombudsman’s guidance for managing discretion. However, there is no consistent and transparent procedure for documenting use of discretion.
- Record keeping generally conforms with the codes of best practice approved by NSW State Archives and Records. However, information technology systems are not integrated, which can affect accuracy in reporting, transparency and document version control.
- The SLM group provides training and guidance on a range of issues, including implementing the Code, customer service and record keeping. Staff indicated that training and guidance materials have been continuously improving since the SLM group began operations.
- The SLM group has taken steps to address early learnings, undertaking an organisation-wide review and making operational improvements. These steps helped to significantly reduce the timeframe for assessment and approval of applications, which is likely to contribute to enhanced customer satisfaction.
We made recommendations to further strengthen the SLM group’s processes and systems for ensuring consistent, accurate and timely advice.
In February 2019, the Minister endorsed our recommendations. Local Land Services prepared an action plan to implement these recommendations.