The Information Branch of the New South Wales Planning and Environment Commission was established at the end of 1978. The role of the branch was to disseminate information about the agency’s activities to the public, special interest groups, and local government agencies, and to create two-way communication with the community relating to policy and environmental planning issues. The specialised units within the branch were media, education, publications, liaison, special projects, inquiries and library. Information packages were prepared to encourage public participation in particular planning schemes and major projects of the agency; information packages were prepared to stimulate the interest of children in environmental issues. A public inquiry counter was conducted in the Commission’s office and staff members addressed meetings and conferences. (1)
From 1980 the branch commenced the production of material in audio-visual form including sound-on-slide, colour video and 16mm film (2) The information centre responded to requests for information both in person and by telephone . The major inquiries concerned local environmental plans, dual occupancy , development applications and the rights of objectors. During two weeks in June 1988 260 inquiries were made in person and 210 telephone requests were received. (3)
By 1988 the Information Branch was part of the Research and Policy Division (4) where it remained until 1992 when it transferred to the Urban Management and Information Division. (5) By 1994 the section was situated in the Special Projects and Corporate Management Division (6) In then same year the information section was revamped and computerised to improve service to clients. (7) In 1996 Information services formed part of the Corporate Management and Coordination Division.
By mid 1997 the responsibilities of the branch included - Information Centre; Geographical Information Service: Library; Media; Photography, and homepage. The Information centre made available environmental impact statements, local and regional environmental plans and various advisory publications. In 1997 it was servicing 23,000 visitors annually. The library consisted of 25,000 volumes, services 3000 visitors in 1996-97 and provided a research service for staff, the photographic service maintained a library of 300,000 images and the department's homepage was almost complete. (8)
A new Information Services branch of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning was formed when the Geographical Information System Branch amalgamated with the Information Branch during the year ended 30 June, 1998. (9)
(1) Report of the NSW Planning and Environment Commission for the year ended 30 June, 1979 p 52-53
(2) Report of the New South Wales Planning and Environment Commission for the year ended 30 June, 1980 p. 65
(3) Department of Planning Annual report for the year ended 30 June 1988 p. 37
(4) Ibid. p. 5
(5) Department of Planning Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1992 p. 7
(6) Department of Planning Annual Report for the year ended 30 June, 1994 p. 7
(7) Ibid. p. 62
(8) Information Services in Department of Urban Affairs and Planning report for the year ended 30 June, 1997.
(9) ‘Communication and Consultation’, Department of Urban Affairs and Planning Report for the year ended 30 June 1998 p. 71