What is NSW Hardwoods’ Future in the Wake of D-G Removal?

Scott Hansen has left a complicated legacy with more questions than answers.

Wed 24 Jan 24


The NSW Labor Government has parted ways with the Director General of the Department of Primary Industries.

Scott Hansen was “suddenly removed” on January 19 and was two weeks short of ten years in the position. The Department website, as of January 20, has yet to have a media release.  

A search reveals the last commentary mentioning Mr Hansen was his 2023 Foreword in the Departmental Annual report.

The Department of Primary Industry is responsible for the NSW State Government’s Forestry Policy.

One of the criticisms of Mr Hanson’s tenure is that forestry policy amounted to monitoring only and complying with regulatory requirements. 

There was no apparent evidence of any attempt to generate policy settings to generate income within the State economy on the available footprint. 

This responsibility is implicit in the terms of the Forestry Act NSW 2012. It all seemed too complicated or was not simply of concern. 

Look no further than the former Director General’s Executive Orders.

Under Freedom of Information, inquiries across different departments on an interdepartmental issue from the State Cabinet revealed no active conduct by these officers. 

Indeed, emails over several years suggested they bow to one particular Department of the Environment officer. 

As a result, a 2019 NSW State Cabinet decision was never implemented. Consequently, a significant section of the forestry industry still awaits a crucial business certainty issue.

So, who is running the NSW forestry policy?

Anyone reading this material might conclude that the hardwood sector of forestry for the last ten years has been overseen by the Department of the Environment rather than the Department for Forestry.  

The hardwood forestry operations in NSW are estimated to generate $2.9B in gross revenue and $1.1B in gross value addition, generating 8,900 full-time equivalent positions

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A report prepared by EY in February showed that the NSW hardwood timber industry was vitally important to the state’s rural and regional economy, contributing $2.9 billion in revenue, adding $1.1 billion to NSW’s gross domestic product and employing almost 9000 people. (Photo Credit: NSW DPI).

Using the DPI figures, the softwood industry was estimated to generate $2B for the 2021-22 financial year. 

As recently as late last year, the Department of Primary Industry could not provide a detailed profile of the forestry industry within NSW.

This last week, when the South East Forest Rescue injunction was mentioned in the NSW Land and Environment Court, there was no appearance in the Court or media release from the Department on the issues raised in the proceedings for injunctive relief.

The policy issue is ensuring matters of forestry policy are developed and monitored in the NSW Department of Primary Industry, as stated in the Forestry Act 2012.

What is being litigated is a compliance issue being turned into a policy issue to alter the delegated instrument known as the ‘Coastal Integrated Forestry Approval Operations’ made possible by Part 5B of the Forestry Act NSW 2012. 

A number of environmental groups, including WWF Australia, are pushing to close native forests along the east coast of Australia in order to preserve the country's glider population. (Photo Credit: Dash Huang via Flickr)
A number of environmental groups, including WWF Australia, are pushing to close native forests along the east coast of Australia to preserve the country’s glider population. (Photo Credit: Dash Huang via Flickr)

Change to this instrument is being sought without the relevant involvement of the Ministers of the appropriate Departments, the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of the Environment. (See section 69N of the Forestry Act NSW 2012).

One would expect the Director General and his officers to protect their Departmental function. 

The apparent absence of anything raises whether the Director General or his Executive was even aware of the matter. Maybe it has been a matter of focus on other issues this last week!

A problem plaguing NSW forestry policy for decades!

This has been the problem with forestry policy in NSW over the last decade. There is a lack of any serious policy work in the area of forestry, particularly hardwood forestry. 

The NSW Government advertised on January 1 2024, with applications closing on January 29 2024, for an Independent Agriculture Commissioner. 

The person to be appointed is to provide independent advice to the Government on strategic agricultural land use to inform strategic planning decisions.

The previous NSW Agriculture Commissioner was appointed in August 2020. This Commissioner was tasked with providing a report on making the position independent.

One ponders if given the Minister for the Environment’s desire to see more timber hardwood plantations in NSW, whether she will seek the new Independent Agricultural Commissioner to generate advice for converting prime agricultural land to hardwood plantations. 

Hardwood plantations need prime agricultural land, good rainfall, and good soil. 

The hardwood industry is quietly voicing the aspiration that any new Director General might understand forestry does exist in the Department of Primary Industry. 


  • Jack Rodden-Green

    Jack Rodden-Green, with 30 years of experience as a forester in New South Wales, combines a deep understanding of forestry with legal training to address social and environmental issues.


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