National Land Account, Experimental Estimates

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The National Land Account provides statistics to measure changes in land attributes over time, both from an economic and an environmental perspective.

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First release

Key statistics

  • Between 2011-16 land managed for resource protection (eg. reserves) increased by 12.3 million hectares.
  • Between 2010-15, 63.8 million hectares of natural terrestrial vegetated: herbaceous land (eg. grassland) became natural surfaces (eg. bare earth).
  • Land value increased 32.6% to $5,124 billion between 2011-16.

Towards National Land Account 2021

Towards National Land Account 2021 is a discussion article that highlights what was learnt through the development of the National Land Account with a view to the near future. The article is also a call for comments on the functionality and use of the accounts in this format, as well as seeking comments on whether there is a need for more geographically detailed and repeatable accounts. Comments continue to be welcome.

Land Use

In 2015-16:

  • 42.3% of total land (325.4 million hectares) was grazing native vegetation (eg. unmodified grazing land).
  • 17.7% of total land (136.5 million hectares) was in managed resource protection (eg. conservation reserves).
  • 13.5% of total land (104.2 million hectares) was in other minimal use (eg. largely unused land).

Between 2010-11 and 2015-16:

  • Managed resource protection increased 12.3 million hectares (9.9%) of which 10.4 million hectares was previously other minimal use. Most of this change occurred in Western Australia (up 9.0 million hectares).
  • Nature conservation increased 6.4 million hectares (9.6%) of which 2.9 million hectares was previously other minimal use and 2.5 million hectares was previously grazing native vegetation. This change occurred in Western Australia (up 3.2 million hectares), South Australia (up 1.1 million hectares) and the Northern Territory (up 1.0 million hectares).
  • Dryland cropping increased 2.5 million hectares (7.9%) of which 2.0 million hectares was previously grazing modified pastures. This change mostly occurred in New South Wales (up 1.4 million hectares), followed by Western Australia (up 0.7 million hectares).
  • Grazing native vegetation decreased 8.3 million hectares (-2.5%) of which 3.0 million hectares moved to managed resource protection, 2.5 million hectares moved to nature conservation and 1.9 million hectares moved to grazing modified pastures.

* includes all other land use types

Definitions of each class for land use, cover, tenure and value can be found in the Classifications section of the land account methodology page.

Land Cover

In 2015:

  • 46.7% of total land (359.3 million hectares) was natural terrestrial vegetated: herbaceous land (eg. grassland).
  • 35.3% of total land (271.7 million hectares) was natural surfaces (eg. bare earth or rock).
  • 11.2% of total land (86.0 million hectares) was natural terrestrial vegetated: woody land (eg. tree covered).

Between 2010 and 2015:

  • Natural surfaces (bare earth or rock) increased 78.3 million hectares (up 40.5%). Of this, 63.8 million hectares was previously natural terrestrial vegetated: herbaceous land (grassland). Most of this change occurred in Queensland (up 41.3 million hectares) followed by the Northern Territory (up 21.8 million hectares).
  • Natural terrestrial vegetated: woody land (tree covered) increased 8.2 million hectares (up 10.5%). The largest increase was seen in Western Australia, which increased tree covered areas by 9.7 million hectares, or 130%. This was offset by a reduction in Queensland (down 4.5 million hectares).
  • Land covered by perennial water decreased by 271.7 thousand hectares (down 13.4%). This is seen across the south and east of the country, with a decrease of 148.3 thousand hectares in Queensland (down 28.8%), 1.06.1 thousand hectares in New South Wales (down 32.9%), and 70.1 thousand hectares in South Australia (down 23.4%). These were slightly offset by increases in Western Australia (up 7.9%, 32 thousand hectares) and Victoria (up 15.2%, 20.8 thousand hectares).


* includes all other land cover types

Land Tenure

In 2015-16:

  • 29.8% of total land (229.7 million hectares) was freehold.
  • 28.0% of total land (215.8 million hectares) was pastoral term lease.
  • 13.1% of total land (101.1 million hectares) was other crown land.

Between 2010-11 and 2015-16:

  • Freehold increased 14.0 million hectares (6.5%) of which 7.6 million hectares was previously other lease, 2.2 million hectares was previously other crown land and 1.4 million hectares was previously nature conservation reserve. Most of this change occurred in Queensland (up 9.5 million hectares).

* includes all other land tenure types

* ACT data reflects other term lease

Land Value

The value of land at 30 June 2016 comprised of:

  • 81.4% ($4,169.6 billion) in residential.
  • 8.4% ($430.0 billion) in commercial.
  • 5.3% ($270.8 billion) in rural.
  • 5.0% ($253.7 billion) in government.

NSW accounted for 39.1% of the total land value for Australia whereas it accounted for 10.4% of the land area.

Between 30 June 2011 and 30 June 2016:

  • The value of land increased 32.6% nationally from $3,864.5 billion to $5,124.1 billion.
  • Land used for residential purposes increased the most (up 36.9%).
  • NSW land used for residential purposes increased 55.3%, the largest increase of all the states and territories.
  • The value of rural land decreased in Western Australia (-10.2%), Queensland (-9.2%) and Tasmania (-1.4%). Queensland government land also decreased (-1.8%).

Land cover within urban areas

In 2015-16, urban areas in Australia were covered by:

  • natural terrestrial vegetated: woody (33.5%)
  • natural terrestrial vegetated: herbaceous (30.7%)
  • artificial surfaces (14.6%).

Across the states/territories

  • natural terrestrial vegetated: woody areas were highest in Tasmania (48.1%) and lowest in South Australia (11.5%).
  • natural terrestrial vegetated: herbaceous areas were highest in the Northern Territory (60.1%) and lowest in Tasmania (20.2%).
  • artificial surfaces were highest in South Australia (27.8%) and lowest in the Northern Territory (4.0%).

* includes all other land cover types

Post release changes

8 July 2022 - Data for Land Use and Land Cover have been updated to reflect finalised Land Use data published by Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) and updated Land Cover data for 2015 published by Geoscience Australia (GA). Key statistics and Datacubes NLADC01, 02, 05, 06, 07, and 08 have been updated to reflect this.

References to Land Use data being preliminary have been removed in the methodology and in Datacubes NLADC01, 05, 06, and 08. Urban intensive uses are no longer under review and this footnote has been removed from datacubes NLADC01, 05, 06, and 08.

Due to a labelling error the column names in Table 1.18 have been updated.

Corrections to the values reported for land covered by perennial water.

14 October 2021 - Correction to name of data file for Land use by land tenure matrix. No change to data file.

    29 September 2021 - Corrections to the mapping of satellite data to state boundaries resulted in minor changes to land use, cover and tenure data. Key Statistics and Datacubes NLADC01, 02 and 03 have been updated to reflect these corrections.

    In the Land tenure classification, the class Other reserve has been changed to Other Crown purposes to better reflect its composition.

    In the Land cover classification, the water class has been split into perennial and non-perennial to differentiate areas that are permanently water covered from those temporarily covered by water.

    More detailed data have also been included. The additional datacubes include:

    • Cross-classification of data at state/territory level
    • Lower level data (Statistical Area Level 2) for land use, cover and tenure
    • Related socio-economic indicators to enable comparison with the land data at Statistical Area Level 2.

    28 June 2021 -  Due to a transposing error, the data cube Physical account for land use, 2011 and 2016 has been updated. Details are:

    Tables 1.10 to 1.18 land use change matrix have been amended for the following land use types:

    Grazing modified pastures

    Plantation forests

    Intensive horticulture and animal production

    Urban intensive uses.

    Data downloads

    Data files

    Previous catalogue number

    This release previously used catalogue number 4616.0

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