Knowledge centre

Research and publications

State of the parks

State of the Parks Assessments

Around the world, protected area managers are working to monitor and evaluate the condition of parks and reserves, identify and reduce threats and to measure the effectiveness of their efforts.

Monitoring fire recovery, Warrumbungle National Park (Photo: OEH)

This information is vital for park managers to learn from past practices and inform future management. In NSW, much of this is delivered through our State of the Parks program.

The NSW State of the Parks is based on the IUCN best practice framework for management effectiveness. It has been established in consultation with world leading experts and designed to provide information about all parks within the NSW reserve system. 

Early public reporting around a state of the parks concept occurred for NSW in 2001 and 2004. From 2005, NSW has been collecting standardised information on a triennial basis with questions revised every three years to ensure they reflect current strategic and operational needs.

The primary purpose of State of the Parks assessment has been to improve operational planning and decision making within the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. It has also contributed extensively to public reporting in NSW including:

  • State of the Environment reporting

  • Forestry reporting

  • World Heritage reporting

  • Parks Forum benchmarking

  • World Wildlife Fund biodiversity surveys

The NSW State of the Parks program supports NSW in delivering on Commonwealth and International strategies. In 2011, the Convention on Biological Diversity produced a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 – a ten-year framework for action by all countries and stakeholders to save biodiversity and enhance its benefits for people. This document emphasises the importance of achieving effective management of protected areas and outlines 20 biodiversity goals (the ‘Aichi targets’) which have been adapted into 10 national targets for Australia. The NSW State of the Parks program delivers a robust and inclusive evaluation system to assess progress towards these targets within the NSW reserve system. 

How does NSW State of the Parks work?

In 2013, the fourth triennial NSW State of the Parks survey was completed for all 867 parks within the NSW reserve system.

Volunteers remove weeds from riverbank, Kosiuszko National Park (Photo: J Spencer/OEH)

National Parks and Wildlife senior managers are responsible for the completion of assessments drawing together relevant evidence to underpin their determinations. On-ground staff familiar with the park contribute their expertise and experience to the surveys, including rangers, field officers, pest management specialists and Aboriginal co-management coordinators.

Data to support the State of the Parks surveys is sourced from research, monitoring, specialist opinion, staff experience and observation, corporate data sets and community opinion.

There are extensive mechanisms in place to ensure the survey data is quality assured.  This includes training and guidelines, pre-population with existing information, quality control checks throughout the survey by experts and managers and post survey auditing of results for consistency and completeness.

Assessing management effectiveness

NSW State of the Parks plays a significant role in the management of the park system through:

  • improving our understanding of the condition of all park values and pressures on individual parks

    Mountain pygmy possum survey, Kosiuszko National Park (Photo: Cate Aitken/OEH)
  • evaluating how well we manage against objectives and planned outcomes

  • informing planning and decision-making at all levels of management

  • supporting communication of our management performance to internal and external stakeholders.

NSW State of the Parks information supports managers in prioritising efforts where they are most needed. With the multiple years of results, managers can now review management effectiveness over time and observe trends and patterns of concern or success.

The NSW State of the Parks program is now recognised as a world leader in providing a comprehensive and rigorous process for assessing the management effectiveness of protected areas. It is presented as a case study in the IUCN best practice guidelines IUCN Management Effectiveness Framework and has been used by other agencies and countries as a roadmap.

Further information

Page last updated: 03 February 2015