Project Overview

The Trees Near Me NSW app shows users the vegetation growing throughout the state of New South Wales. A key feature of the app reveals the vegetation that used to grow in locations prior to the land clearing that has taken place since European settlement, with a list of tree, shrub and grass species available for landowners looking to revegetate their property with indigenous plants.

Trees Near Me NSW leverages data from the detailed vegetation mapping project undertaken by the NSW Government over the past decade. This incredible environmental data resource is now available for general users in an intuitive and simple to use mobile app.

Project Commissioner

NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Project Creator

We Make Apps


Michael Byrne, We Make Apps Founder, Engagement and analysis

Michael led the engagement with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and undertook the initial technical analysis to import and transform vegetation and geospatial data sources to be used in a smooth and easy to use app.

Simon Mathews, Visual Design

Simon provided detailed user experience and user interface design services for the Trees Near Me NSW app, including detailed mockups of more than 20 app screens. Simon's role extended into the refinement of functional requirements into clear user journeys.

Brent Marriott, Senior App Developer

Brent led the development of the mobile app, with a focus on the Android app, by far the most complex and involved part of the project. Brent specialised in the implementation of the interactive map-based functionality and played a key role in the integration of the app with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment's geospatial data sources.

Kristian Pennacchia, Senior App Developer

Kristian was the lead developer on the iOS version of the Trees Near Me NSW mobile app. Kristian worked closely with the client and the server-side developers to ensure a seamless experience on both the iOS and Android versions of the app.

Mark Di Dio, App / Web Developer

Mark worked closely on a number of key aspects of the implementation of a number of enhancements in the app, including UI/UX transitions, map sharing and a range of other features. Mark also helped on the development of the web version of the Trees Near Me NSW system.

Jedd Nugent, Testing / Quality Control

Jedd provided detailed testing of the Trees Near Me NSW app, including preparation of detailed test plans and analysis of different user stories.

Project Brief

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment has led the way in its adoption of the 'open data' philosophy, with the publication of a large suite of environmental data through the NSW Government's existing SEED portal (The Central Resource for Sharing and Enabling Environmental Data in NSW). While the depth of this data is very impressive, accessing and understanding the data is generally beyond the reach of lay users.

The brief for the Trees Near Me NSW app was to develop a software solution that integrated with the technical resources available through the SEED portal and presented that data in an easily accessible and understood mobile app. The app would be freely available to the public and needed to support iOS and Android phones, as well as provide a web-based version for desktop access.

Project Innovation/Need

The importance of forests and vegetation in addressing environmental challenges, especially climate change and the decline in biodiversity, is becoming increasingly apparent. Effective management and recovery of our forests and grasslands requires excellent data, not only on the forests remaining but also detailed data on the species that previously grew on land that has since been cleared.

After years of effort, the NSW Government has sourced and collated a comprehensive geospatial dataset of the state's vegetation. This vegetation data is a key input into planning and management considerations for NSW, and can also be leveraged to educate residents and landholders with scientifically backed information about how to best restore the native vegetation on their property.

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment recognised the importance of making this valuable dataset available to as wide an audience as possible. For lay users, one of the most appropriate mechanisms is a bespoke app to present the data in a simple and intuitive interface.

Design Challenge

The greatest challenge in designing the Trees Near Me NSW mobile app finding a way to take a complex, geospatial dataset and present it in a way that would seem intuitive and immediately of value to end users.

Our approach typifies the keep-it-simple approach to design. Upon launch (following some brief onboarding for brand-new users), the user is immediately presented with a map, centered on their current location. Without any interactions, the app then presents the user with a summary of the types of vegetation at that location. Searching other locations requires no filling out forms, no registration, nor knowledge of the domain - rather the user is empowered to simply discover the vegetation growing throughout the state by panning and zooming the map.

While the presentation of the app appears incredibly simple, it belies the complexity of the data and software architecture powering the app. Rastered map tiles are served directly from NSW Government servers, while asynchronous queries to determine the location around target areas are performed via an optimised, bespoke API. Augmenting this information is data imported from a third source, the NSW Government's BioNet portal.

User Experience

The app and the associated https://treesnearme.app website have been celebrated as an example of surfacing important scientific data to lay users in an accessible and intuitive format. The app was formally launched by the NSW Minister for the Environment on National Tree Day in July 2022. Since its launch, the app and website have reached thousands of residents throughout the state.

The success of the Trees Near Me NSW app has led to the launch of the sister app Soils Near Me NSW, revealing important data about the land types and capabilities throughout the state. A third app, Credits Near Me NSW, is currently under development to surface geospatial data relating to the NSW Biodiversity Offset Scheme.

This award celebrates innovation and creativity in design of a unique user experience in the combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video, and interactivity content for apps. Consideration given to clarity of communication and the matching information style to audience.
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