Mesh Blocks are the smallest geographic areas defined by the ABS and form the building blocks for the larger regions of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). They broadly identify land use such as residential, commercial, primary production and parks. Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) are generally the smallest geographic unit used to release Census of Population and Housing data; however, for ASGS Edition 3, limited Census of Population and Housing data may also be available at the Mesh Block level.
ASGS Edition 3 contains 368,286 Mesh Blocks covering the whole of Australia without gaps or overlaps. This includes 114 non-spatial special purpose codes including a new Outside Australia code. These non-spatial Mesh Blocks represent populations that are difficult to define geographically such as people who are in transit or have no fixed address. Migratory and No Usual Address are examples of this type of Mesh Block.
The Non ABS structures that will be approximated from Mesh Blocks include Local Government Areas, Postal Areas, Suburbs and Localities (formerly State Suburbs), Commonwealth Electoral Divisions, State Electoral Divisions, Australian Drainage Divisions and Destination Zones.
As Mesh Blocks are very small they can be combined together to accurately approximate a large range of other geographies.
Mesh Block design criteria
Mesh Blocks for ASGS Edition 3 are designed according to a standard set of criteria first developed for ASGS 2011. All of the criteria considered are listed below in approximate order of importance.
Please note that the order of importance for some criteria may change depending on whether an area is urban or rural. For example, in urban areas, the requirement for dwelling counts over 30 takes precedence over the requirement to match locality boundaries. In rural areas however, matching locality boundaries sometimes takes precedence over minimum dwelling requirements because of the flow on effect Mesh Block design has on other structures in the hierarchy.
Mesh Blocks reflect dominant land use where possible. For example, residential areas are separated from commercial or industrial areas. Wherever possible, each Mesh Block is designed to have a single land use, for example parkland, but this is not always possible. Land use is recorded in the Mesh Block category attribute according to the criteria below.
- Residential: will mainly contain houses, duplexes, apartments, townhouses, gated communities, caravan parks, retirement villages, residential military bases, and prisons. Where possible, residential areas are separated from other land uses.
- 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: will contain a number of businesses, and where possible, will have a zero population count.
- Parkland: will mainly contain parks, nature reserves, public open space, and other minimal use protected or conserved areas and, where possible, will have a zero population count. Parkland Mesh Blocks may also include sporting arenas or facilities, including racecourses, golf courses and stadiums. These facilities may not be open to the public.
- Education: will contain education facilities, and may contain population in non-private dwellings such as boarding schools or universities.
- Hospital/Medical: will contain hospital or medical facilities. This may include aged care facilities, which are distinguished from larger retirement villages.
- Transport: will contain road or rail features and, where possible, will have a zero population count.
- Primary Production: a Mesh Block is classified as Primary Production when available information indicates that more than half of the area is used for primary production.
- Water: will mainly contain various bodies of water including lakes, rivers and canals, and where possible will have a zero population count.
- Other: includes Mesh Blocks 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. Many Mesh Blocks which were classified as agricultural in earlier editions of the ASGS are now classified as other.
Mesh Blocks are designed where possible to contain between 30 and 60 dwellings, with some low dwelling count Mesh Blocks permitted to accommodate other design criteria. The minimum dwelling count of Mesh Blocks is designed to be small enough to aggregate accurately to a wide range of areas and to enable a ready comparison of statistics between geographic regions. The Mesh Block target size helps the ABS protect against accidental disclosure of confidential information.
Zero Mesh Blocks
Zero Mesh Blocks are created to capture areas with no population, such as airports, commercial or industrial developments, and large shopping complexes.
Mesh Blocks are created in anticipation of development which is likely to occur before the date of the 2021 Census of Population and Housing.
Where practical, Mesh Block boundaries do not cross cadastral (property) boundaries. Mesh Blocks are designed to be an aggregation of land parcels.
Mesh Blocks follow road centre lines where possible. Roads, particularly major roads such as highways and motorways, are used as Mesh Block boundaries where possible.
Each Mesh Block is a single area, for example every island is a single Mesh Block.
Suburbs and Localities (or rural suburbs)
Where possible, Mesh Blocks are designed to contain or aggregate to whole officially gazetted suburbs or localities, especially in rural areas.
Mesh Blocks, where possible, contain an entire major facility. This includes hospitals, universities, airports, correctional centres, and retirement villages, 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 are included in individual Mesh Blocks of compact shape, where possible. This means that some Mesh Blocks have more than 60 dwellings.
Communities of interest
Mesh Blocks aim to group communities of interest together. For example, a whole apartment building, residential complex, parking lot, shopping complex or retirement village is contained in one Mesh Block, if possible.
Where possible in urban areas, Mesh Blocks reflect town blocks.
Where possible, all dwellings/buildings are to be accessible by road or pathway from within the Mesh Block so that communities of interest are grouped together. For example the houses on a cul-de-sac are contained in one Mesh Block and therefore boundaries may follow a back fence.
Where practical, Mesh Blocks are designed to be compact in size and shape, especially in urban areas.
Natural and man-made barriers, such as main roads, are used as boundaries in order to keep communities together. This means that if a Mesh Block boundary runs along a main road then adjacent Mesh Block boundaries will follow the same road if possible. This will provide consistency and continuity in the aggregated regions made from Mesh Blocks.
Mesh Block boundaries reflect topographic, or landscape, features where practical.
The topographic features used for Mesh Block design include:
- water bodies such as rivers and lakes
- transportation such as roads and rail
- open space such as parkland, nature reserves and forest
- major mountain ranges or escarpments
Mesh Block name criteria
Mesh Blocks are not named.
Mesh Block coding structure
The 11-digit Mesh Block code comprises: State and Territory identifier (1 digit), and a Mesh Block identifier (10 digits).
Mesh Block changes
Some Mesh Block redesign has occurred for the release of ASGS Edition 3. This redesign is necessary to ensure that Mesh Blocks continue to meet the criteria set out above, and so that they remain relevant by reflecting the growth and change in Australia's population, economy and infrastructure.
Changes to Mesh Block boundaries occur where growth and development have taken place since the last edition of the ASGS in 2016. Boundaries were modified in the simplest way possible to facilitate comparison over time. Where changes were made, they were undertaken to ensure long term stability into the future.
This redesign has in turn affected the coding of the Mesh Blocks. Where a 2016 Mesh Block has been split or significantly redesigned, the original 2016 Mesh Block code has been retired and replaced with a new, previously unused code for ASGS Edition 3.
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 substantial numbers of households or businesses, or land area. These changes have been made for cartographic purposes to ensure that the ASGS boundaries can be used with standard mapping data. They are not considered to be significant and have not resulted in code changes.