Office of Environment and Heritage (New South Wales)
|Formed||4 April 2011|
|Dissolved||Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water|
|Jurisdiction||New South Wales|
|Parent agency||Department of Planning and Environment|
The New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), a division of the Government of New South Wales, is responsible for the protection and conservation the New South Wales environment, including the natural environment, Aboriginal country, culture and heritage and built heritage, and manages national parks and reserves within the state. The OEH is part of the Department of Planning and Environment.
Government agencies for the protection and conservation of natural and built resources in New South Wales have existed since the appointment of the first Minister for Conservation, the Hon. Captain Bill Dunn, MLA in 1946.
The Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) was formed following the merger of the Environment Protection Authority, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Botanic Gardens Trust, and Resource NSW. This agency contained the Office of Water, which was formed from the New South Wales Department of Water and Energy, formed in 2007 and dissolved in 2009; other parts and responsibilities of the Department of Water and Energy were transferred to the Division of Minerals and Energy in Industry & Investment New South Wales. At previous times DECCW was known as the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC).
Following the election of the O'Farrell government at the 2011 state election, the functions of the DECCW were broken up with its responsibilities split between the new Office of Environment and Heritage and the residual functions managed by the Industry, Innovation and Investment Division of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services. The OEH was managed under the direction of the Department of Premier and Cabinet until 2014, when the Baird government changed the reporting arrangements so that the OEH now reports to the Department of Planning and Environment.
The former department was responsible for:
- management of flora and fauna
- promotion of environmentally sustainable consumption and production
- protection of the state's cultural heritage, particularly Aboriginal cultural heritage
- regulation of air and water quality, noise, chemicals, radiation and waste disposal
The organisation had strong links with the Sydney Catchment Authority.
The department was headed by Director-General Lisa Corbyn and headquartered in Sydney, with offices across the city and state.
The Office consists of seven functional areas:
- Climate Change, Policy and Programs Group
- Environment Protection and Regulation Group
- Parks and Wildlife Group
- Botanic Gardens Trust
- Corporate Services Division
- Culture and Heritage Division
- Scientific Services Division
Although an agency of the Government of New South Wales, the Office includes a number of independent boards and committees; for example, the management of the Botanic Gardens is overseen by the Botanic Gardens Trust, and the powers of the Environment Protection Authority, as exercised by the Authority to investigate or prosecute government agencies, are formally vested in an independent board. Threatened species determinations are made by an Independent Scientific Committee. A number of advisory councils have been established to allow community members to have a say in the management of parks and reserves.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) was established in February 2012 as a statutory authority. The EPA has an independent governing Board and is the primary environmental regulator for NSW. It carries out environmental protection work in a variety of areas including air and water quality, environmental incident management, contaminated land, noise, coal seam gas, native forestry, dangerous goods, hazardous waste, chemicals and pesticides, and waste and resource recovery.
Parks and Wildlife
The Parks and Wildlife division is referred to in the department's external communications by its pre-merger name, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The NPWS manages over 660 protected areas in the state, including Kosciuszko National Park, Sydney Harbour National Park, Royal National Park and the Blue Mountains National Park.
With the national parks estate covering around 10 per cent of New South Wales, the department is a significant player in debates over land management in the state. The NPWS has a significant amount of responsibility for fire management in the state, and is often the target of criticism when Sydney - the so-called "city in a national park" - is threatened by bushfire.
As a land manager, the NPWS must also address pest management issues. The status of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park and deer in Royal National Park is particularly contested, with many park users viewing these introduced species as having heritage value.
The New South Wales Labor government under Bob Carr sought to significantly increase the size of the national parks estate. This was despite funding constraints, meaning that funding per unit area has fallen in recent years. A large number of parks and reserves in the NPWS estate lack detailed plans of management and fire management strategies.
Botanic Gardens Trust
The Botanic Gardens Trust manages four parkland areas in and around metropolitan Sydney.
The department is mirrored at a national level by the Department of the Environment (Australia). Some protected areas in metropolitan Sydney are protected by other agencies, including local councils, the Centennial Park Trust, the Sydney Olympic Park Trust, and the Australian Government's Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. Elsewhere in the state are protected areas managed by the Marine Parks Authority of New South Wales and the State Parks of New South Wales.