In 2019-20, the Harbour Trust was the subject of an Independent Review (the Review) of its legislative, financial and governance arrangements, the first since the agency commenced in 2001. The Review was announced, along with the Terms of Reference, by the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Sussan Ley MP, on 30 October 2019.
The Review was led by two independent reviewers: the former Secretary of Planning for NSW, Ms Carolyn McNally, and former Executive Director of Infrastructure NSW, Ms Erin Flaherty. The reviewers were supported by a secretariat team provided by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
The independent reviewers worked closely with the Harbour Trust, the community and relevant experts and stakeholders to identify and address the challenges, constraints and opportunities faced by the Harbour Trust. To gather the community’s views across these areas, three public forums were held in November 2019, one each at Cockatoo Island (19th), Headland Park (25th) and North Head Sanctuary (26th). A final public forum was held on 18 February in the Sydney CBD. The forum was attended by the Hon. Sussan Ley MP, along with an estimated 350 people who participated.
A consultation paper was published by the independent reviewers to assist the development of written submissions to the Review. The consultation paper provided background information on the Harbour Trust, as well as the sites under management, and identified issues that were to be considered through the course of the Review.
The Harbour Trust provided the Department and the Review team with support for the duration of the Review, providing information necessary for the reviewers to conduct their inquiries and responding to requests as they arose. Support was provided from all areas of the organisation: communications, leasing, finance, heritage, asset management, legal and planning.
The consultation period for the Review closed on 31 January 2020, with a total of 177 public written submissions received. The Harbour Trust made a submission to the Review, outlining the organisation’s view of the issues faced, as well as recommendations on the pathway forward. Core to the Harbour Trust’s recommendations was the need for financial support, modest legislative change to provide capacity for the Harbour Trust to operate sustainably, and increased opportunities to collaborate with the NSW Government.
On 18 June 2020, the Hon. Sussan Ley MP released the Final Report on the Independent Review, detailing a series of 21 recommendations regarding the future of the Harbour Trust and its operations. A key recommendation is for the Harbour Trust to become an ongoing entity, with operational frameworks and capabilities to reflect this newfound status.
The Harbour Trust commended the Government’s decision to establish the Independent Review of the Harbour Trust and welcomed the final outcomes.
On 31 July 2020, the Harbour Trust issued a Statement of Intent, responding to the Minister’s Statement of Expectations and the Final Report. The statement outlines the directions the Harbour Trust will follow to progress implementation of the Review recommendations.