About this report

NSW State of the Environment 2021 (SoE 2021) has been prepared by the EPA to provide a snapshot in time of the status of the main environmental issues facing the state. The SoE is updated every three years and brings together information and data from across all NSW Government agencies with responsibility for managing the state’s environmental assets.

This information is assembled and compiled within an SoE online reporting system. A new version of the SoE system has been created following completion of the three-yearly data update in December 2021. This SoE 2021 report was extracted from the system for tabling in the NSW Parliament as a more concise report without the interactive functionality, online linkages and supplementary resources available in the 2021 online version.

How to use this report

Structure and linkages

NSW State of the Environment 2021 is structured around six broad themes and 22 separate topics within those themes. The six themes are all related and the SoE online system allows for seamless transition from content in one topic to another. Each topic has a structure consistent with the Status and Trends – Pressures – Responses model for SoE reporting. 

Indicator summaries

SoE 2021 assesses the current status and trends of each of 77 environmental indicators, along with the reliability of the information used to provide an indicator rating. Any new information or data is generally assessed over the reporting period between the previous and current SoE report, taking into account previous data whenever possible to help understand the level of background variation that may be present.

Key to the indicator summaries

Indicator status

‘Indicator status’ refers to the environmental condition of the indicator.

Indicator rating Interpretation
Good status meter
Green: Good – the data shows a positive or healthy environmental condition.
Moderate status meter
Blue: Moderate – the data shows that the environmental condition is neither good nor poor, or results may be mixed.
Poor status meter
Red: Poor – the data indicates poor environmental condition or condition under significant stress.
Unknown status meter
Grey: Unknown – insufficient data or information is available to make an assessment.

Indicator trend

‘Indicator trend’ describes the direction of significant change in environmental condition, where this can be differentiated from natural background variation. The trend is usually judged over the three years of the reporting period, but with a greater focus on the latest and most current data.

However, longer term data is also considered, where available, as it helps to gauge the level of background variation that occurs naturally and interpret the significance of any change. The trend reported, if maintained, may have an impact on the overall status of the indicator in the future.

Indicator trend Interpretation
Getting better The trend in environmental condition for the indicator is clearly improving (environmental impacts are decreasing). However, while a trend may be positive in direction, it may still be many years before the change is enough to warrant a revision to the status.
Stable No significant change in condition is evident, usually allowing for some level of fluctuation due to the background variability that occurs in most naturally occurring systems.
Getting worse The trend in environmental condition for the indicator is clearly deteriorating (environmental impacts are increasing).

Indicator reliability

‘Indicator reliability’ describes the level of confidence in the data or information used to make these assessments. It considers the statewide extent of data coverage, the accuracy and ‘fitness for use’ of the data and the reliability of the information and its interpretation in assessing the status and trend for the indicator. This is represented by the symbols below.

Indicator reliability Interpretation
✔✔✔ Three ticks: Good – the data or information is sufficient to interpret the outcome with confidence.
✔✔ Two ticks: Reasonable – the data coverage may not be complete or the supporting information drawn on is not ideally fit for purpose (often it is collected for some other purpose) but is still adequate for use in this context and the interpretations are sound.
One tick: Limited – the data coverage is patchy and uneven in quality or there may be some inconsistencies in the supporting information, so caution is needed in considering the ratings and interpretations.