Community transmission of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is a major public health concern that remains difficult to assess. We present a genomic survey of SARS-CoV-2 from a during the first 10 weeks of COVID-19 activity in New South Wales, Australia. Transmission events were monitored prospectively during the critical period of implementation of national control measures. SARS-CoV-2 genomes were sequenced from 209 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 infection between January and March 2020. Only a quarter of cases appeared to be locally acquired and genomic-based estimates of local transmission rates were concordant with predictions from a computational agent-based model. This convergent assessment indicates that genome sequencing provides key information to inform public health action and has improved our understanding of the COVID-19 evolution from outbreak to epidemic.