1270.0.55.004 - Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 4 - Significant Urban Areas, Urban Centres and Localities, Section of State, July 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/10/2012  First Issue
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Contents >> Urban Centre and Locality/Section of State (UCL/SOS) >> Urban Centre and Locality (UCL)



The UCLs are defined using the following criteria. The population figure used for these criteria is the 'Place of Usual Residence' from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing unless otherwise specified.

All SA1s that satisfy the following criteria are considered 'of urban character' if they:

  • have an urban Mesh Block population greater or equal to 45% of the total population and dwelling density greater or equal to 45 dwellings per sq km; or
  • have a population density greater or equal to 100 persons per sq km and a dwelling density greater or equal to 50 dwellings per sq km; or
  • have a population density greater or equal to 200 person per sq km.


An Urban Centre is a cluster of contiguous SA1s with an aggregate population exceeding 1,000 persons contained within SA1s that are 'of urban character'.

SA1s meeting at a point are not considered to be 'contiguous'.

SA1s containing the following infrastructure are considered to be 'of urban character' if adjacent to an SA1 'of urban character' as defined above:
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • airports with paved runways
  • caravan parks
  • cemeteries
  • community parks and reserves
  • defence facilities
  • educational institutions
  • electricity sub stations
  • golf courses
  • grain storage
  • hospitals
  • industrial areas (including meat works and abattoirs)
  • non-agricultural commercial development
  • office complexes
  • parks, reserve areas, foreshore reserves that are between an urban area and the shoreline
  • ports and port facilities
  • prisons
  • racecourses
  • railway stations, bus stations and similar transport hubs
  • research facilities
  • sale yards
  • sewerage facilities
  • shopping centres
  • show grounds
  • sports facilities
  • tourist attractions (including theme parks)
  • tourist resorts
  • unpaved airstrips immediately contiguous with the built up area
  • waste disposal facilities.

The following infrastructure is not considered urban, unless completely surrounded by urban SA1s, or split a centre that would otherwise be considered a single entity:
  • mines
  • wineries
  • power stations
  • dams and reservoirs
  • national parks
  • forests
  • shooting ranges
  • explosives handling and munitions areas
  • defence force training grounds.

Any area completely surrounded by SA1s which are urban is itself classified as urban. This includes areas that are bounded by an Urban Centre and a shore or coastline.

An adjacent SA1 on the edge of an Urban Centre can be included in that Urban Centre at the discretion of the designer if that SA1 would have been considered as a Locality in its own right (see below) and is obviously part of that Urban Centre.

An adjacent SA1 on the edge of an Urban Centre can be included in an Urban Centre at the discretion of the designer if that SA1, through inappropriate SA1 design, contains features that should otherwise be included in the Urban Centre; even if it does not satisfy previous criteria.

Abutting Urban Centres are to be joined into a single entity unless they are in a separate labour market. For the purposes of applying these criteria a labour market is defined as:
  • a Greater Capital City Statistical Area (GCCSA)
  • the combined Statistical Areas Level 4 (SA4) of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie and Hunter Valley exc Newcastle as these represent a single labour market
  • adjacent SA4s across a S/T boundary.

Urban Centres are not joined if they are clearly separated by a major geographic barrier.

All contiguous urban growth is included together with any close (less than 500 metres), but non-contiguous development which could be clearly regarded as part of the Urban Centre. If necessary these can be linked to the Urban Centre through adjoining SA1s, which will also become part of the Urban Centre.

Smaller Urban Centres within 1.5 km of an Urban Centre with a population exceeding 20,000 persons, are subsumed by the larger Urban Centre. They are not joined if they are in separate labour markets or are clearly separated by geographic barriers. The distance is calculated from the SA1 edges of each centre along direct road links. SA1s containing these linking roads are themselves included in the Urban Centre, unless they severely compromise the Urban Centre design. Ferry and rail links are not to be considered.

Discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with a population exceeding 1,000 are considered to be Urban Centres.

Discrete tourist resorts with a population exceeding 1,000 are considered to be Urban Centres.

S/T, Local Government Areas (LGA) and other administrative boundaries are disregarded in determining whether an SA1 should be included within the Urban Centre.


Localities are defined according the following criteria:
  • Each Locality is to consist of a contiguous cluster of one or more SA1s.
  • Each cluster should:
      • contain a population of at least 200 'Usual Residents'
      • represent a clear aggregation of residential population.

Towns with a 'Usual Resident' population of under 200 persons, but with a significantly greater 'As Enumerated' population, are also defined as Localities. These are typically tourism destinations.

The defining of Localities is necessarily more subjective than for Urban Centres as their population can be well below the optimal for a single SA1. SA1 design therefore has a significant influence on their definition. In addition, there are many different configurations of small settlements, including villages, towns, clusters of peri-urban style development, and areas with significant tourism.

A Locality may contain a population exceeding 1,000 persons if it does not meet the criteria for an Urban Centre.

A Locality is not combined with an abutting Urban Centre or Locality unless they are functionally a single entity.

Discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with a population between 200 and 999 are considered Localities.

Discrete tourist resorts with a population between 200 and 999 are considered Localities.


All SA1s in a S/T, except special purpose SA1s which are not included in an UCL, are combined into 'Remainder of State/Territory' which represents the rural balance of the S/T.


The introduction of the ASGS, particularly the SA1s, made it impractical to use the previous Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) UCL and SOS criteria without modification. The UCL criteria were therefore redeveloped with the following considerations:
  • The resultant definition of UCLs should be broadly comparable to the past.
  • The criteria should be as objective as possible.
  • The criteria should be the same regardless of the size of the Urban Centre.
  • The outcome should be reproducible from publicly available information, either from the ABS or other sources.

Consequently, the new criteria are different from those used previously. The result identifies a broadly similar set of UCLs as the past definition, containing similar populations. In most cases it is possible to make a valid comparison of the same UCLs across several Censuses. In doing such a comparison it is important to realise that:
  • UCLs are dynamic, they grow, absorb nearby centres or decline.
  • The regions from which they are built also change with the underlying settlement pattern.


In the past any UCL with a population over 1,000 was automatically considered an Urban Centre. The criteria above allow the identification of developments with some urban characteristics, which do not satisfy all the criteria for an Urban Centre, yet have a population over 1,000. These UCLs are considered to be large Localities.


The key criteria for UCL names are that they be:
  • meaningful
  • have a maximum of 40 characters
  • unique, i.e. not shared by any other UCL in Australia.

Where an UCL represents a single dominant centre then it is named for that centre:
  • Melbourne
  • Sydney
  • Townsville

Where an UCL represents a combination of two centres of comparable importance, it is named for both centres separated by a dash, the largest taking precedence:
  • Shepparton - Mooroopna
  • Bushfield - Woodford
  • Berrara - Cudmirrah (L)

Where an UCL crosses a S/T border, the component parts are identified in brackets:
  • Gold Coast - Tweed Heads (Gold Coast Part)
  • Gold Coast - Tweed Heads (Tweed Heads Part)
  • Canberra - Queanbeyan (Canberra Part)
  • Canberra - Queanbeyan (Queanbeyan Part)

Where an UCL represents a region with a widely recognised name, then that name is used:
  • Sunshine Coast
  • Central Coast

Localities have (L) appended to their names to indicate they are Localities and not Urban Centres:
  • Agnes Bank (L)
  • Avoca (L)
  • Mount Burr (L)

Where an UCL name would not otherwise be unique, the S/T abbreviation is appended in brackets:
  • Maitland (SA)
  • Maitland (NSW)
  • Mount Barker (SA)
  • Mount Barker (WA)
  • Richmond (L) (Tas.)
  • Richmond (L) (Qld)


An UCL is identifiable by a 6 digit fully hierarchical code. This comprises a S/T, SOS and SOSR and an UCL identifier. An UCL identifier is only unique if it is preceded by the S/T, SOS and SOSR identifiers. It is therefore possible to identify the population range to which the UCL belongs from the component SOS and SOSR codes. This was not possible under the ASGC UCL coding system.

For example:

922002 Jervis Bay (L)

UCL Name

Jervis Bay (L)

631777 Remainder of State/Territory (Tas.)

UCL Name

Remainder of State/Territory (Tas.)


Two UCLs are defined in each S/T for that part of a population which cannot be meaningfully assigned to a geographically defined region:
  • Migratory - Offshore - Shipping
  • No usual address

179997 Migratory - Offshore - Shipping (NSW)

UCL Name

Migratory - Offshore - Shipping (NSW)

299994 No usual address (Vic.)

UCL Name

No usual address (Vic.)

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