1270.0.55.001 - Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, July 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/07/2016   
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    Mesh Blocks are the smallest geographical area defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and form the building blocks for the larger regions of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). All other statistical areas or regions are built up from or, approximated by whole Mesh Blocks. They broadly identify land use such as residential, commercial, primary production and parks, etc.

    The 2016 ASGS contains 358,122 Mesh Blocks covering the whole of Australia without gaps or overlaps. This includes 113 non spatial Mesh Blocks special purpose codes, for Migratory-Offshore-Shipping and No Usual Address for the States and Territories. These non-spatial Mesh Blocks do not have a geographic boundary defining their extent and include areas that are difficult to define in this way.

    In 2016 a number of ASGS Non ABS structures will be built from Mesh Blocks, which will result in more accurate approximations of these Non ABS geographies when compared to the 2011 SA1 approximated Non ABS geographies. The ASGS Non ABS structures that will be approximated from Mesh Blocks include Local Government Area, Postal Area, State Suburb, Australian Drainage Division and Natural Resource Management Region.

    As Mesh Blocks are very small they can be combined together to accurately approximate a large range of other statistical regions.


    The 2011 ASGS Mesh Blocks were originally designed using a standard set of criteria. These design criteria have continued to be used when redesigning the Mesh Blocks for the 2016 ASGS.

    The priority order for these design criteria can vary depending on where in Australia the Mesh Block is located. For example, some of these priorities will change depending on whether the area is urban or rural. In urban areas, it is highly desirable that urban Mesh Blocks have a dwelling count of over 30. Wherever possible, urban Mesh Blocks have been designed to follow main roads or back fences to ensure internal connectivity within a Mesh Block. In the case of rural town Mesh Blocks, main roads have also been an important design element; however, the outer locality boundaries were of a higher priority in design. This ensured that the urban extent of rural communities could be contained.

    During the review process there were historical rural Mesh Blocks that met the desired count of 30 to 60 dwellings; however, some of these were spatially so large that they impacted the functional boundaries of key higher level regions. This would have adversely affected the release of useful statistics for these higher level regions. In these instances rural design priorities focused on alignment with higher level region boundaries (such as locality boundaries), internal connectivity and compact shapes, and these design criteria were given higher priority over the dwelling count criteria.

    In general, the priority order of Mesh Blocks design criteria can be summarised as:

    • be of either urban or rural character
    • where practical, not to cross cadastral (property) boundaries
    • to follow road centre lines
    • where possible, all dwellings/buildings to be accessible within the Mesh Block
    • where possible, have a dwelling count of between 30 and 60, or contain no dwellings at all
    • to be a single polygon
    • to broadly reflect land use – the land use categories to which a Mesh Block can be assigned include:
      • residential
      • commercial
      • industrial
      • parkland
      • education
      • hospital/medical
      • transport
      • primary production
      • water
      • other
    • to align to gazetted suburb and locality boundaries, especially in rural areas
    • to identify major facilities, such as hospitals, universities, airports etc
    • to identify high density housing
    • socio-economically homogenous, e.g. whole apartment buildings, shopping complexes and parking lots
    • to reflect town blocks in urban areas
    • to be of a compact size and shape especially in urban areas
    • to provide consistency and continuity for adjacent Mesh Block boundaries, where possible
    • to reflect topographic features such as rivers, road, rail, major mountain ranges and escarpments
    • alignment to Local Government Area boundaries, where possible.

    Urban and Rural

    Mesh Blocks are designed to be either urban or rural in nature. The primary purpose of this urban/rural split is to distinguish clustered population from dispersed population.


    Where practical, Mesh Block boundaries do not cross cadastral (property) boundaries. Essentially Mesh Blocks are designed to be an aggregation of land parcels.


    Mesh Blocks should follow the road centre lines, where possible. Major roads such as highways/motorways can be used as a Mesh Block boundary.


    Where possible, all dwellings/buildings are to be accessible by road or pathway from within the Mesh Block.


    The minimum dwelling count of Mesh Blocks has been designed to be small enough to aggregate accurately to a wide range of spatial units and to enable a ready comparison of statistics between geographical regions, while also being large enough to protect against accidental disclosure of confidential information. The majority of populated Mesh Blocks contain between 30 and 60 dwellings. The Geocoded National Address File (G-NAF) and cadastral counts were used as the proxy for dwelling counts.

    Single Polygon

    Mesh Blocks must be a single polygon.

    Land Use

    Mesh Blocks reflect land use boundaries where possible. For example, residential areas are separated from commercial or primary production areas. Mesh Blocks are therefore broadly categorised by land use. The Mesh Block category is not designed to provide a definitive land use map. It is purely indicative of the main land use for a Mesh Block, based on a range of general land use indicators. The land use categories and their criteria are described below.
    • Residential: Generally, residential areas have been separated from other land uses. Residential Mesh Blocks can include houses, duplexes, apartments, serviced/long stay apartments, townhouses, gated communities, complexes, caravan parks, retirement villages, military bases where people live, and prisons.
    • Commercial: Mesh Blocks categorised as commercial will contain a number of businesses, and where possible, will have a zero population count. Some commercial Mesh Blocks may contain population, for example, where a residential flat is above a shop.
    • Industrial: Mesh Blocks categorised as industrial will contain a number of businesses, and where possible, will have a zero population count.
    • Parkland: Mesh Blocks with parkland, nature reserves and other minimal use protected or conserved areas have been categorised as Parkland. Parkland Mesh Blocks may also include any public open space and sporting arena or facility whether enclosed or open to the public, including racecourses, golf courses and stadiums.
    • Education: Education Mesh Blocks aim to capture education facilities and may contain population in non-private dwellings such as boarding schools or universities.
    • Hospital/Medical: Mesh Blocks with hospital or medical facilities have been classified as such. Hospital/Medical Mesh Blocks will also include aged care facilities, which are independent to larger retirement villages.
    • Transport: Mesh Blocks which only contain road or rail features have been categorised as transport.
    • Primary Production: Primary production has replaced the previous category of agricultural. Mesh Blocks categorised as primary production must have more than 50 per cent of their area attributed to a primary production land use, and has been categorised as this using a range of available datasets. Mesh Blocks which were previously categorised as agricultural and did not meet this criteria were categorised as other.
    • Water: Water Mesh Blocks aim to identify water bodies where possible.
    • Other: Mesh Blocks classified as other are representative of land uses which could not be easily placed in one of the other nine categories due to the nature of the land use, or due to evidence of high mixed use.

    Gazetted Suburbs and Localities

    Where possible, Mesh Blocks are designed to contain or aggregate to whole suburbs or localities, especially in rural areas.

    Major Facility

    Mesh Blocks, where possible, should identify hospitals, universities, airports, retirement villages, etc., which occupy a large area of land, extend across both sides of a street, or have an internal road network.

    High density housing

    High density housing (such as apartment blocks) have been identified and designed to be incorporated into individual Mesh Blocks of compact shape, where possible. This may mean that these Mesh Blocks exceed the upper level of population and dwelling targets.

    Socio-economical homogeneity

    Mesh Blocks should be socio-economically homogenous. For example, a whole apartment building, residential complex, parking lot, shopping complex or retirement village should be a single Mesh Block, if possible.

    Town Blocks

    Where possible in urban areas, Mesh Blocks will reflect compact, town blocks. These town blocks are already defined by cadastral parcels and main roads.


    Where practical, Mesh Blocks are designed to be compact in size and shape, especially in urban areas.


    If a Mesh Block boundary runs along a main road, adjacent Mesh Block boundaries will follow the same road if possible. This will provide consistency and continuity in the aggregated regions made from the Mesh Blocks.


    Mesh Block boundaries reflect topographic features, where practical, as these have the potential to define communities.

    The topographic features used for Mesh Block design include:
    • water, rivers and lakes
    • transportation, roads and rail
    • open space, parkland, nature reserves and forest
    • major mountain ranges or escarpments.

    Mesh Block Design

    Some Mesh Block redesign has occurred for the release of the 2016 ASGS. This redesign is necessary to ensure the Mesh Blocks continue to meet the criteria set out above and remain relevant by incorporating the growth and change in Australia's population, economy and infrastructure. In addition, Mesh Blocks have been designed to incorporate the Territory of Norfolk Island, following its inclusion into the definition of Geographic Australia.

    Some changes have also been made to the Mesh Block digital boundaries for cartographic purposes to ensure the boundaries can be used in conjunction with standard mapping data. In effect these changes do not represent a change in the boundary, only its representation.

    Some design changes to boundaries that reflect changes to physical infrastructure, such as realigned roads, do not result in the movement between Mesh Blocks of any or substantial numbers of households or business, or land area. Where this occurs, these changes are not considered to be statistically significant.

    Design changes that have resulted in statistical significant changes to the Mesh Block boundaries usually occurred due to current estimated population and dwelling levels in 2011 Mesh Blocks that exceeded or were lower than the targets in the design criteria. Where this occurred, the 2011 ASGS Mesh Block has been reviewed and the 2016 Mesh Block redesigned where appropriate. Changes were done as splits to boundaries, or boundaries were modified in such a way as to limit the number of statistically significant changes to the surrounding boundaries. Where changes occurred they were undertaken to ensure long term stability into the future.

    This redesign has in turn impacted the coding of the Mesh Blocks. Where a 2011 Mesh Block has been marginally re-aligned, split or significantly redesigned, the original 2011 Mesh Block codes has been retired and replaced with a new, previously unused code for 2016.


    The 11-digit Mesh Block code comprises: State and Territory identifier (1 digit), and a Mesh Block identifier (10 digits).

    Example: 60106840000



    Mesh Block Identifier Ranges

    Within each State and Territory, the Mesh Block identifier range 0000000000 to 9999999999.