NSW Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program



The Premier has asked the Commission under a terms of reference to independently oversee and advise on a state-wide monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement program for NSW forests.

The Program will improve the evidence-base for decision-making for forest management across tenures.

This will strengthen the NSW Government’s ability to strategically and adaptively manage forests over time, including state forests, national parks, private native forests and crown forested land.

Foundational projects

A key deliverable under the Program Framework 2019-2024 is to establish foundational projects that provide early building blocks for the program by end-2019.

The Steering Committee has approved funding for two foundational projects.

Supporting post-fire ecological resilience and recovery planning in NSW forests

This project will provide the tools and methods to assess the immediate effects of wildfires and identify where mitigation and recovery actions need to be implemented. With this accurate and timely information, forest managers will be better equipped to plan, monitor and report on post-fire ecological recovery over time.

This project is led by the Science Division in the NSW Planning, Industry and Environment and NSW Rural Fire Service. Project collaborators include the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the NSW Bushfire Management Research Hub at University of Wollongong and the Western Sydney University.

Click here for more information about this project.

Monitoring fauna in forests with acoustic technology in northern NSW

This project will monitor, analyse and report trends in fauna species occupancy since 2015 in north coast state forests and reserves. It will focus on the changing status of koala population as measured by occupancy, including changes in koala density after recent wildfires burnt two acoustic arrays in the forested north-east ranges of NSW.

This project is led by the NSW Forestry Corporation of NSW and Forest Science Unit in the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. Project collaborators include the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Local Land Services and the Science Division in the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Click here for more information about this project.

Coastal IFOA Monitoring Program

The Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (Coastal IFOA) Monitoring Program 2019-2024 has been submitted for joint approval by the Chief Executive Officer of the Environment Protection Authority and the Director General of the Department of Primary Industries.

Development of the monitoring program was led by the Commission, in collaboration with a technical working group of agency representatives established by the forest Monitoring Improvement Program Steering Committee, with input from independent scientific experts.

Nine regional workshops were held with environmental and industry representatives in Grafton, Port Macquarie, Eden, Batemans Bay and Sydney to inform the design of the monitoring program.

The proposed program was exhibited for public comment between 18 October and 8 November 2019, resulting in 14 submissions from a range of community, environment, industry and government agency stakeholders.

Following approval of this program, a detailed monitoring plan will be developed for its implementation. This will include detailed design of the nine monitoring strategies proposed under the monitoring program.

Draft Coastal IFOA Monitoring Program

The NSW Forest Monitoring and Improvement Steering Committee, independently chaired by the Natural Resources Commission, developed a draft monitoring program for the Coastal IFOA.

The Commission invited comment on the monitoring program from all interested parties. The comment period has now closed. The Commission is considering this feedback in finalising the monitoring program, before presenting it to the Department of Primary Industries and the Environment Protection Authority for approval.

Communiqué 3: Fifth Steering Committee Meeting

This is the third 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.

Stakeholder and Community Engagement Plan

The Steering Committee endorsed the Program’s Stakeholder and Community Engagement Plan (see below). This plan sets out a timeline and opportunities for the community to provide input to the design, implementation and review of the Program from 2019 to 2021. Annual forums will be established as a key Program milestone from September 2020, bringing together a broad range of interested stakeholders to review information from the program and discuss insights for adaptive forest management.

Program budget

The Steering Committee noted the Program’s budget expenditure in the 2018-19 financial year. The Steering Committee requested quarterly financial reports. The Steering Committee will continue to direct and approve major funding proposals in line with the Program Framework 2019-2024.

Plot network design and remote sensing program

The Steering Committee noted that the state-wide technical working group is developing the metrics and monitoring methods for the NSW cross-tenure plot network and remote sensing program. An expert workshop will be held in November 2019 to discuss metrics, stratification and sampling methods. A workshop on remote sensing platforms and data will follow.

Regional stakeholder forums

Fifty-four stakeholders attended nine regional stakeholder forums held in late September and early October to discuss the work of the Program. The forums were held in Port Macquarie, Grafton, Batemans Bay, Eden and Sydney. A wide range of stakeholders attended the forums, including community organisations, forest managers, industry groups, research organisations, and Aboriginal organisations. The forums provided constructive input on the design of the Coastal IFOA Monitoring Program – a draft of which was published on the Commission’s website in mid-October for public comment. Stakeholders noted issues such as climate change, water quality, fire management, biosecurity and heritage should be the focus of the broader Program.

Priority evaluation questions

Monitoring, evaluation and research under the Program will respond to priority information needs of decision-makers and the community. The Steering Committee noted that the Program team is currently collating potential information needs and evaluation questions based on submissions to the Program Framework, stakeholder feedback at regional forums and community feedback in previous submissions to agencies about forest management. The Program team will consult further with forest managers and forest policy makers about their priority information needs. The Program will consult the community on a working list of priority information needs and evaluation questions in early 2020.

Aboriginal engagement plan

The Steering Committee noted work to develop an Aboriginal Engagement Plan for the Program. The Steering Committee directed the Program team to design and implement a long term approach to Aboriginal engagement, which harnesses agencies’ local networks and Aboriginal engagement staff. Following consultation with peak Aboriginal organisations, the draft Aboriginal Engagement Plan will be finalised for the Steering Committee's consideration and endorsement.

Submissions on the draft Program Framework

The Commission received 16 written submissions, including one confidential submission. The Commission is currently considering community feedback and will release the final strategy in August 2019.

Below are the 15 non-confidential submissions:

The Commission is committed to open and transparent public consultation processes.

All submission providers have consented the publication of their submission online. In some cases, an author did not consent to the publication of their name or requested that their name be withheld, and these submissions are published under ‘Name withheld’.

Steps have been taken to remove the personal information of authors and identifying information where appropriate. Factually incorrect, defamatory or confidential information about the Commission haves been redacted.

The submissions do not represent the views of the Natural Resources Commission.

Click here to see a summary of submissions received.

Final program framework

The Steering Committee has finalised its Program Framework 2019-2024. It sets out aims, principles and deliverables over the next five years.

The Steering Committee considered and responded to community feedback on a draft framework.

Next deliverables include:

  1. Priority information needs and evaluation questions to guide investment in forest monitoring, evaluation and research by early-2020.
  2. A design for a cross-tenure plot network to monitor key forest metrics and linked to remotely sensed information by mid-2010.
  3. Foundational projects for monitoring, evaluation and research that provide early building blocks for the program by end-2019.
  4. The Coastal IFOA monitoring program is designed and recommended by end-2019.
  5. Forums for stakeholder consultation are established to draw in expertise of research organisations, forest managers, stakeholders and the community, in reviewing forest monitoring, research and evaluations starting in 2019.

The Premier’s request

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 provide independent advice by reviewing forest monitoring data, evaluation and research, drawing on a diverse range of expertise and information from both within the NSW Government and outside of government. 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.

Program outcome and aims

The Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program will deliver evidence to adaptively manage NSW forests across tenures in an ecologically sustainable manner.

The Program aims to:

  • focus on the information required to improve the adaptive management of NSW forests
  • provide the public with independent, accessible and robust evidence of forest management performance
  • be adaptable to changes to both research priorities and forest monitoring methods
  • be cost effective by employing efficient mechanisms to meet program objectives
  • satisfy NSW’s obligations to national and international forest management reporting.

The Steering Committee

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

The draft Program Strategy describes the governance for the program.

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

  • Professor Patrick Baker, (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.

NSW agencies will implement the approved Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program Plan, including the collection, procurement, analysis and sharing of data and reports for forests on all tenures. NSW agencies remain responsible for the ongoing implementation, administration and adaptive management of the RFAs and IFOAs.

A Governance Charter describes the governance arrangements for the Program.

Program scope

The Program will include forest monitoring, evaluation, research and reporting on both public and private land across NSW. Information will be generated to improve adaptive management of NSW forests, including state forests, national parks, private native forests and crown forested land.

Specifically, the Program will incorporate requirements for the monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement of forest management and environment protection under the three NSW Regional Forest Agreements and four NSW Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals. This includes NSW’s obligation to report against indicators for ecologically sustainable forest management.

The Program will build on a range of existing forest monitoring, evaluation and research initiatives and provide opportunities for coordination and partnership.

Consultation and engagement

Stakeholder and Community Engagement Plan 2019-2021

The Commission and the NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee will engage with the community, environment and industry stakeholders on the Program design, implementation, annual reviews and major reviews.

The Program seeks to work with a wide range of partners, including community organisations, Indigenous groups, and universities to draw in monitoring, research, data, and evaluation skills, and convening and consolidating experience from across the state at local and regional levels.

Public reporting of the Program results and progress will be made available, including any recommendations of the Commission and the NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee for any suggested changes to the Coastal IFOA, RFAs or the NSW Forest Management Framework.

Stay informed

The Commission is currently initiating the Program and working with and the NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee to commence the Program design.

If you would like to receive updates regarding this work, you can sign up to our mailing list.

The Commission will be updating this webpage as the project is implemented.