This paper explores the three phases of State of Environment Reports (SoERs) prepared by local councils in NSW since the introduction of the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW), which heralded significant change to local government's powers, functions and requirements. NSW is the only Australian jurisdiction where local SoERs are required. The first phase was responsive to environmental concerns but provided considerable confusion. The second was more ambitious and complex. The current phase provides considerable flexibility. This article leads to questions such as whether the SoER should be enveloped into the new 'Community Strategic Plan' or stand alone as a separate management tool.