National Land Account, Experimental Estimates methodology

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The National Land Account is produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and released under the Common national approach to environmental-economic accounting in Australia. These experimental estimates have been developed in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) and Geoscience Australia (GA), including their respective internal research areas: Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and Digital Earth Australia (DEA).


This account is part of a suite of environmental-economic accounts produced by the ABS based on the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA). The SEEA framework extends the boundaries of the System of National Accounts (SNA) framework to include environmental resources, which occur outside economic production boundaries measured by the SNA.

The SEEA Central Framework (SEEA CF) uses a systematic approach to organise environmental and economic information. It covers, as completely as possible, the stocks and flows relevant for analysis of environmental and economic issues. This framework applies accounting concepts, structures, rules and principles of the SNA. Environmental-economic accounts deliver important extensions to SNA accounts. These accounts may include physical supply and use tables, functional accounts (such as environmental expenditure accounts), and asset accounts for natural resources.

For this account the physical asset and matrix tables align with the SEEA CF where possible. Where data is unavailable to complete the tables, 'na' has been used to maintain the SEEA account framework. The inclusion of land cover, land use and land value (monetary asset) are standard to the SEEA CF. Land tenure is of particular interest to the Australian community and is included in these accounts.

Scope and coverage

Land use, Land cover and Land tenure are comprised of:

  • Physical asset account tables
  • Change matrix tables
  • Cross-classification tables
  • Statistical area level 2 datasets

Land value is comprised of:

  • Asset account table

The SEEA CF definition of land is:

Land is a unique environmental asset that delineates the space in which economic activities and environmental processes take place and within which environmental assets and economic assets are located.

The SEEA CF provides guidance for standardised asset account tables (physical and monetary) and change matrix tables. The ABS has previously experimented with land cover by use tables in state-based land accounts. Feedback has indicated that these tables provide improved data insights. Therefore, the ABS is including cross-classification tables (land use by cover, use by tenure and tenure by cover) with the September 2021 revision to this publication. While the land cover data are on a different temporal basis to the land use and tenure information, cross-classifications of all three datasets have been provided in this publication to show the potential in these data. Efforts are being made to bring these datasets into time-series alignment.

Change matrix table

The change matrix tables (tables 1.10 to 1.18, 2.10 to 2.18 and 3.10 to 3.18) show how characteristics of land transitioned between two time points. The rows of the matrix start with an opening stock position for the first time point and finish with a closing stock position for the second time point. The data in each column represents the net change between the two intersecting categories, that is the movements in and out of these combinations of classes. A positive change represents an overall increase in the land class and a negative change represents an overall decrease in the land class.

Using the data in the table below. Class 1 had 20 units in time period 1. Between the time periods, 10 units previously in Class 2 and 5 units previously in Class 3 transitioned to Class 1, resulting in a closing stock position of 35 units. You will notice that Class 2 shows a decrease of 10 units and Class 3 shows a decrease of 5 units where they interact with Class 1, as overall there should be no change to the total amount of land. Similarly, the total of all opening stock amounts will equal the total of all closing stock amounts.

Due to the volume of SA2 level data, Tables 8.2, 8.4 and 8.6 present the change matrix information in a flat line. These data can be converted into a change matrix table by taking each class block and making that a row in a table like the table shown above.

Change matrix table
Class 1Class 2Class 3
Opening stock203010
Class 1..-10-5
Class 210..7
Class 35-7..
Closing stock351312

Data standards and geography

The National Land Account data standards and statistical geography was developed to provide consistency in data development approaches and facilitate alignment of input datasets to produce account ready datasets. These steps spatially enable the compilation, analysis and interpretation of the National Land Account. The data standards and statistical geography sections outline dataset specifications and linkages to the geographic boundary for the National Land Account and sub-national reporting areas.

Data standards

The National Land Account data specifications are as follows:

  • Format: raster
  • Cell resolution: 250m (also referred to as the Basic Spatial Unit, BSU)
  • Coordinate system: GDA94 datum with Australia Albers EPSG3577 projection

                   aulx: -2189542.25149

                   auly: -1047686.305317

                   alrx: 2468707.74851

                   alry: -4964936.305317

  • Attribution or resampling rule: categorical data by mode (GA) or maximum combined area (ABARES), numerical data by bilinear rule, nearest neighbour for reprojection and sub setting
  • Boundary cell rule: included if the raster cell centroid is within the boundary, excluded if the centroid is not within the boundary.

Statistical geography

  • National Land Account boundary

The national geographic boundary that the National Land Account is being compiled to represent. This is the geographic extent of Australia, excluding external territories and islands, as shown in the Australian Statistical Geographic Standard (ASGS, 2016 version). The 2016 ASGS boundaries were converted to a 250m grid format for use in this publication. Further, many versions and resolutions of national, state and territory boundaries exist in the public domain. Each version will ultimately also provide a slightly different aggregated national, state and territory area. Resampling from the original dataset resolutions to match the resolution of coarser resolution data will impact aggregated area totals. The DEA land cover products are developed at a 25m resolution, requiring resampling to match the ABARES land use and tenure datasets with a resolution of 250m.  

  • State and Territory boundaries

The sub-national geographic boundaries that the state and territory breakdowns are being compiled to represent. These are the geographic extents of the states and territories, as shown in the ASGS. There are 8 states and territories: Queensland, New South Wales (including Jervis Bay), Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The 2016 ASGS boundaries were converted to a 250m grid format for use in this publication.

  • Statistical area level 2

Further sub-national geographic boundaries that regional/local breakdowns are being compiled to represent[AC1] . There are over 2200 Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) areas defined in the 2016 ASGS. SA2s are designed to reflect functional areas that represent a community that interacts together socially and economically. They consider suburb and locality boundaries to improve the geographic coding of data to these areas, and in major urban areas, SA2s often reflect one or more related suburbs. The SA2 is the smallest area for the release of many ABS statistics. A selection of socio-economic data at the SA2 level have been included with this release to enhance the usability of the land information. SA2s generally have a population range of 3,000 to 25,000 persons and have an average population of about 10,000 persons. The SA2 boundaries were converted to a 250m grid format for use in this publication. 


Data sources

Land use data

ABARES land use and associated land use change

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) is the research arm of DAWE. ABARES works in partnership through the Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Program (ACLUMP) to develop nationally consistent land use information for Australia. This work is overseen by the National Committee for Land Use and Management Information (NCLUMI).

ABARES has produced annual classification and change spatial land use products for the financial years 2010-11 and 2015-16. The spatial products are consistent with the BSU raster format as required in the National Land Account data standards and statistical geography. 

The spatial mapping utilises the nationally standardised Australian Land Use and Management (ALUM) Classification (version 8), jurisdictional land use spatial products and agricultural commodity modelling based on the ABS Agricultural Census. The spatial products are in raster format with a 250m resolution. The smallest unit of measure is 6.25 hectares. Classes with small estimates are less reliable and should be used with caution. Information on the spatial data and the latest version of the land use data can be found on the ABARES website.

Land cover data

DEA land cover and associated land cover change

Digital Earth Australia (DEA) is a research area within GA, Australia’s public sector geoscience organisation.

The data source used to compile the land cover physical asset tables is the DEA land cover spatial products. The DEA platform uses spatial data and images recorded by satellites orbiting our planet to detect physical changes across Australia. The DEA land cover spatial products provide consistent, continental, annual land cover classifications for Australia. The classification is based on the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Land Cover Classification System (LCCS, version 2), a globally accepted land cover classification standard. The spatial products in the National Land Account have been resampled to a 250m resolution to be consistent with the chosen BSU raster format in accordance with data standards and statistical geography. Account ready data have been provided by GA and DEA for the 2010 and 2015 calendar years. 

Land tenure data

ABARES land tenure and associated land tenure change

ABARES has produced spatial tenure products for the financial years 2010-11 and 2015-16. The spatial products are consistent with the BSU raster format as required in the National Land Account data standards and statistical geography.

The methodology combines jurisdictional land title information from digital cadastre databases and other sources into a national classification. The spatial products are in raster format with a 250m resolution. The smallest unit of measure is 6.25 hectares. Classes with small estimates are less reliable and should be used with caution. More information is available at Land tenure of Australia 2010-11 to 2015-16, 250m.

Land value data

Land value data used in this release of the National Land Account are sourced from the ABS Australian System of National Accounts (Table 61, Value of land, by land use by state/territory - as at 30 June, current prices).

These data have been produced using modelling and input data from a range of sources including ABS public finance data, ABS value of residential dwelling stock data and state and territory Valuer Generals data. Further detailed information around methodology used is outlined in the Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods.

National Accounts land value data are available at the state/territory and national level. There are four identified land use categories - residential, commercial, rural and other. Data are released annually with a reference of as at 30 June each year.

For the land account tables the “other” category has been classified as “government” as these data pertains to publicly owned land. 2011 and 2016 data have been used as opening and closing stocks.

Related socio-economic indicators

A selection of socio-economic data on the same temporal time basis as the land data have been included in this publication. The source publication should be accessed to obtain definitions and other information on these indicators. The included indicators and their source are:

Census of Population and Housing

  • Number of employed persons
  • Number of unemployed persons
  • Number of persons in the Labour Force

Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits

  • Number of businesses
  • Number of employing businesses
  • Number of businesses with turnover greater than $50,000

Estimates of Personal Income for Small Areas, 2011-16

  • Number of employee earners
  • Median age of employee earners
  • Median income of employee earners
  • Number of own unincorporated business income earners
  • Median income of own unincorporated business

Regional Population

  • Estimated resident population
  • Median age of persons
  • Percentage of population that are of working age
  • Population density


The table structure for the land accounts is that outlined in the SEEA CF.

The classifications and definitions are specific to each table.

Land use

Land cover

Land tenure

Monetary asset account (Land value)


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