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Land use reflects both the activities undertaken and the institutional arrangements put in place, for purposes of economic production or the maintenance or restoration of environmental functions. In contrast, Land cover refers to the physical biological land cover including natural vegetation and abiotic surfaces.
POLICY RELEVANCE AND USE
The Agriculture industry are managers of the greatest amount of arable land in Australia. Growers are instrumental in the management of land as a natural resource. The management of land is fundamental to the sustainability of food production, though there are many factors that can contribute to difficult growing conditions and natural reductions in farm productivity.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources provides advice to the Australian Government on the livestock industry to support their continued development and growth. This involves liaison with industry, community and government, particularly through representative organisations and agencies. The Australian Government document Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper contains an overarching policy vision of a more profitable, more resilient and more sustainable agriculture sector. Land plays a pivotal role in policy It sets out a number of initiatives and goals, for example, reducing costs, promoting export market access, building infrastructure, creating well-paying jobs and maintaining access to high quality and affordable food for all Australians.
All of these goals may be informed by environmental accounts. In particular, the location and approximate production levels of growers by location will enable better information about the adequacy of transport networks and proximity to domestic markets. Good land management practices can be examined alongside production levels, in particular climatic zones to optimise the crop or produce from that region. Good information about land characteristics can allow the overlay of a wide variety of information including employment, population, land covers and ecosystems in that location.
As national land accounts are not able to be readily complied at this time (see Future Opportunities below), land accounts for the Burnett Mary NRM and South Australian Murray-Darling Basin NRM have been included in this discussion paper. The account data published in ABS publications Land Account: South Australia, Experimental Estimates, 2006 - 2011 (cat. no. 4609.4.55.001) and Land Account: Great Barrier Reef Region, Experimental Estimates, 2014 (cat. no. 4609.0.55.001) have been reworked into SEEA AFF land account tables. These are Table 26.1, 26.2, 28.1 and 28.2 available from the Download tab. ABS has released a number of land accounts publications over the past five years covering different States (including Queensland, South Australia and Victoria) and regions.
Maps for each NRM region have also been produced, showing the amount land cover (cleared and non-cleared) and land use (agriculture and non-agriculture).
Further analysis of these tables and maps can be found in the respective NRM feature article sections.
MEASUREMENT GAPS AND FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES
Land accounts provide a valuable way of integrating economic data (land value), environmental data (land use), natural capital (forests, water bodies) and produced capital (agricultural commodities) to a spatial location. Land use and land cover accounts have been produced by the ABS on a regional level for selected states since 2011. A national land use or land cover account has not been produced as yet, nor have state accounts been produced on a consistent time frame.
The development of a National Land Account is currently being explored across a number of government agencies, including the ABS, Department of Energy and Environment, State environmental departments, Geoscience Australia and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. The account is intended to establish a platform which will bring together data from a variety of sources, to produce physical land cover accounts into which other data (such as land use, land value) can be integrated in a consistent way. These accounts are intended to align with SEEA and other frameworks and represent a common approach for Australia.
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