Insight and oversight

The NSW Government established the Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program to support ecologically sustainable management of all NSW forests. The program responds to community concerns about the ecological sustainability of NSW forests and whether there is sufficient reliable information available to track forest health, productivity, biodiversity and sustainability.

Through a terms of reference, the Premier has requested the Commission to oversee the program’s governance, design and delivery. In addition, the Commission is required to ensure the program delivers open and transparent information in a timely manner and commitments are tracked and delivered.

The Commission will deliver clear and practical recommendations to NSW Government agencies and forest managers on both emerging challenges in forest management, such as forest health issues arising due to the effects of climate change, and on opportunities to improve the management of forests in NSW.

NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee

As required under the terms of reference, the Commission has established, and will independently chairs a cross-agency NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee to oversee the design, implementation, review and continuous improvement of the program. The Steering Committee has developed a Program Framework to guide delivery, and lead and coordinate reviews of the program.

The Commission has appointed the following independent experts to the Steering Committee:

  • Professor Patrick Baker, Charles Bullard Fellow, Harvard Forest, former Australian Research Council Future Fellow and School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Phillip Gibbons, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University
  • Associate Professor Jacki Schirmer, Institute for Applied Ecology and Health, University of Canberra and Senior Fellow at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University
  • Dr Peter Hairsine, Centre for Water and Landscape Dynamics at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University.
  • Mr Bhiamie Williamson, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University.

The Steering Committee meets at least quarterly and communicates outcomes (see Communique below).


Communiqué 7: Steering Committee Meeting

This is a communiqué from the NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee, which oversees the NSW Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program. The Steering Committee includes NSW government agencies and independent scientific experts, as outlined under the Program’s Terms of Reference.

Independent Aboriginal expert advisor appointed

The Steering Committee endorsed Mr. Bhiamie Williamson, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University, as a permanent independent expert advisor to the committee. Bhiamie is a Euahlayi man from north-west NSW. His research include natural resource management, cultural burning and developing sustainable community development pathways.

Two new Aboriginal led cultural value assessments

The Steering Committee endorsed Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council and Brungle Tumut Local Aboriginal Land Council to undertake Aboriginal led cultural values assessments in their regions. The Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council were engaged in July and are currently undertaking assessments in their region. Firesticks will continue to support coordination across the groups.

Forest monitoring projects are making good progress

The Commission team presented project updates to the committee. The presentation was well received by the committee prompting further connections with other work across agencies, research institutions and community groups. Project updates are available here.

Future scenarios for NSW forests

The Steering Committee members endorsed the proposed approach to develop future scenarios for NSW forests. The plan seeks to draw on existing knowledge and expertise on strategic scenario development across the NSW Government and its knowledge partners. The approach to develop future scenarios is available here.

Annual oversight of coastal IFOA

The Commission team updated the Steering Committee on approaches to review the coastal IFOA and species management plans annually. These are part of a broader approach to adaptively manage the coastal IFOA, including annual stakeholder forums. More detail can be found here.

Annual stakeholder meetings

The Commission hosted two annual stakeholder forums via webinars in November 2020. Over 70 stakeholders attended both meetings, including a mix of participants from environmental groups, industry, government agencies and universities. Overall feedback from participants was positive. Some of the participants noted that the webinars covered many topics and suggested that future online webinars could provide more detail and monitoring data on each of the topics discussed. Many are interested in further information on the fauna baseline and monitoring work and future scenarios either by online forums or more targeted workshops. A short report on the stakeholder forums is available here.

Linking data to decision-making

The University of Melbourne research team has now completed the work including surveying and interviewing agency staff. To promote the better use of data in decision-making, the report recommends a number of short and long-term steps. The report is available here.

Previous communiqués

Program update

The Commission produces annual progress reports outlining program achievements, insights and opportunities, and priority next steps for the year ahead. The third annual report is now available.

An independent review found the information generated by the program has provided new knowledge about how to best manage NSW forests for our communities, industries and flora and fauna, and established a foundation for future monitoring and evaluation. The program has facilitated productive collaboration between agencies, with the Commission’s role as an honest broker highlighted as critical to achieve this outcome.

The program has published data and reports, which can now be accessed by the community, researchers, business and industry.

This annual report presents findings and insights from the program on forests, biodiversity, water catchments and the impacts of the 2019-20 wildfires. Outcomes from Aboriginal-led cultural assessments are also highlighted, along with a range of future scenarios for NSW forests.

Overall, NSW forest values are under threat from future climate change, including changing fire regimes and other extreme events such as more frequent, and intense rainfall events. The report concludes that coordinated long-term forest monitoring needs to continue and be expanded to address key knowledge and data gaps, particularly around species occupancy, soil carbon, water quality, and forest dependent jobs.

Funding for co-ordinated, cross-tenure forest monitoring under this program ended in June 2022. Going forward, the Committee will continue to oversee forest monitoring with a focus on monitoring in production forests to meet Coastal IFOA and Private Native Forestry (PNF) Code requirements.

Program framework

The Program Framework 2019-2024 sets out aims, principles and deliverables over the next five years. It also describes how the program will be improved.

The Steering Committee has finalised a plan to evaluate program performance and learn how to improve.

Program evaluation

The Committee commissioned an independent evaluation of program outcomes and delivery to date in line with the program evaluation plan.

Overall, the evaluation found the program has taken an important step to significantly improve the information base available in NSW to manage forests. Productive collaboration between agencies is a key achievement, despite having different policy objectives and drivers. The Commission’s role as an ‘honest broker’ among agencies was critical to achieve this outcome.

The evaluation found the program was delivered with a clear focus on providing cost effective outcomes including trialling new technologies, using historical data and aligning work across agencies. Outputs from the program are varied and offer value as individual projects. However, there is a need to draw them together into a cohesive set of insights and implications for forest management. In addition, the program should take stock of deliverables to date and assess future priorities.

The evaluation report suggests a range of recommendations to improve the program.

Project: Bridging the gap between data capture and decision making

Professor Brendan Wintle has lead a research team from the University of Melbourne to advise on how existing data and analysis can better inform adaptive decision making for forest management in NSW. The team has delivered opportunities to improve effective use of evidence for decision making in the short-term, and those that will require longer-term commitment and adjustments.