Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


Strategic Planning Committee

Following from the International Peer Review and receipt of the report from the Review team, the Board of Trustees recommended the formation of a Strategic Planning Committee.

The Committee’s immediate role is to review existing reports and documents, and to develop a vision for the organisation, define its role and functions, and propose a three-year corporate plan (within a ten-year vision) and actions to address imperatives for the coming 12 months.

The Strategic Planning Committee, chaired by the Executive Director, comprises:

  • Dr Brett Summerell - Executive lead; Science & Conservation
  • Dr Dale Dixon - Science & Conservation (Collections)
  • Brad Horan - Estate Management
  • John Siemon - Estate Management (Project Management)
  • Mat Murray - Estate Management (Horticulture)
  • Kate Faithorn - Public Experience and Communications
  • Nicky Jones - Fundraising
  • Danielle Stocks - Secretary; Corporate and Business Services

Facilitating this work of the Committee on behalf of the Board of Trustees is Dr Vince Murdoch of Egan Associates working pro bono.

Terms of Reference 

Principal accountability

The Strategic Planning Committee is responsible for developing a strategic plan for the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (the Trust). The Committee’s role will include reviewing existing reports and documents and conducting appropriate research to develop a vision for the Trust, define the organisation’s role and functions, and propose a three-year corporate plan and actions to address imperatives for the immediate 12 months.


In December 2010, an International Peer Review of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (the Trust) was conducted on invitation from the Trust Board. The Review assessed the Trust’s performance in fulfilling its objectives as defined by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust Act 1980, and evaluated the Trust’s management, structures, procedures, governance, priorities, programs and services. The Review considered the Trust’s scientific research and conservation programs; education, public programs and visitor services; project management; management of heritage and infrastructure; fundraising; horticultural standards; communications and marketing, and business and corporate services.

The Strategic Planning Committee was assembled to consider the observations and recommendations from the International Peer Review and the prior observations and conclusions of the Trustees. The Committee have been tasked to prepare a Trust Strategic Plan for 2012-2016 for review and adoption by the Trustees. The Committee is also required to develop a 10 year outlook of the Trust’s future priorities, consistent with the NSW Government’s planning horizon. The Trustees consider that the Committee should canvas a wide range of perspectives to inform its work and it should explore arenas of opportunity for the Trust, even where they might lie beyond the current stated objectives of the Trust.

Organisational context

The Trust is a statutory body within the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Department of Premier and Cabinet. It is responsible for the overall management and strategic direction of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney and Domain; the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan, and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah. The Trust also manages the National Herbarium of NSW, the NSW Seedbank and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Exhibition Centre.

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust Act 1980 defines the Trust’s objectives as to:

  • maintain and improve Trust lands, the National Herbarium of New South Wales and the collections of living and preserved plant life owned by the Trust
  • increase and disseminate knowledge about the plant life of Australia, and of New South Wales in particular
  • encourage the public use and enjoyment of Trust lands by promoting and increasing the educational, historical, cultural and recreational value of these lands

When acting in pursuance of its Objects, the Trust is to give particular emphasis to encouraging and advancing the study of systematic botany, and to plant conservation.


The Committee will be composed of members of staff representative of the key roles and functions within the Trust: scientific research and conservation; collections management; estate management; horticulture; project management; public experience; communications; fundraising, and corporate and business services. Each team member will have prime accountability for a specific nominated area but will also contribute to all other areas.

A quorum shall be four members.

The Chair of the Committee will be the Executive Director of the Trust. Facilitating the work of the Committee on behalf of the Trustees is Dr Vince Murdoch of Egan Associates.

Membership of the Committee will be from the date of nomination for a minimum of three years. One Committee member will be appointed as Secretary and will retain oversight of all incoming research and documents produced by the team. One team member will also have overall editorial responsibility for reports and presentations.

Meeting attendance & frequency

The Secretary will ensure an agenda is drawn up and circulated before each meeting. Where applicable, the agenda should be accompanied by appropriate support papers.

Meeting frequency is not stipulated, but shall be scheduled to allow for regular reporting to the Trust Board and to allow annual review of the strategic plan.

The Committee may also consider and make decisions about urgent matters out of session.


The Committee is authorised to investigate any activity within the Committee’s terms of reference. It is authorised to seek any information it requires from any Trustee, other executive or employee and all employees are directed to cooperate with any request made by the Committee.

The Committee is authorised to obtain outside independent professional advice and to secure the attendance of outsiders with relevant experience and expertise if it considers this necessary.

Disclosure & confidentiality requirements

Should a member of the Committee have an interest in a matter being considered by the Committee, the member will state the nature and extent of that interest for the minutes.

The strategic planning project, process, all materials and discussions are confidential and shall not be shared beyond the Committee. Committee members will sign a confidentiality agreement to this effect at the Committee’s first meeting.

Outputs & reporting

The Secretary will circulate the minutes of meetings and matters arising, including allocated tasks for action, to the Committee.

The Committee will document the strategic review process and provide regular status reports to the Trust Board.

Specific accountabilities

The Committee will:

  • consolidate the International Peer Review report and other existing reports and documents to develop an agreed approach to develop the Strategic Plan for the Trust
  • review and develop a planning template outlining areas to be addressed in the Strategic Plan
  • conduct appropriate research and investigations to determine best practice for addressing identified areas of concern and priorities, and recommend appropriate actions and priorities for addressing these issues
  • develop an organisational structure to deliver the strategy, including estimated costs and workforce strategies for its implementation.

The Strategic Plan will include and address:

  • a vision for the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust to 2021, consistent with the NSW State Government’s vision as outlined in NSW 2021
  • an overall strategy for the Trust that defines the Trust and what it does
  • how the organisation operates; its role, governance, processes and accountabilities
  • organisational structure and capabilities.

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