Source: Richie Southerton



This section provides an assessment of land use and condition in the ACT. The following indicators are assessed:

For background information on land in the ACT see Background: Land

Land health impacts and pressures are also discussed in Climate change, Biodiversity, and Water. The ACT’s urban expansion and its impacts are also discussed in 5. Canberra’s urban boundary.

The impacts of the Orroral Valley bushfire on the ACT’s land health is also discussed in 4. Bushfires in the ACT.

That the ACT Government: 


Minimise the growth in urban greenfield development by encouraging and providing opportunities for medium and high-density dwellings, and residential infill developments.


Ensure current and future greenfield developments incorporate actions to minimise impacts on natural ecosystems and biodiversity.


Increase data collection and reporting on land and soil health to address this important data gap in environmental condition assessments.


Develop a soils strategy for the ACT that includes routine monitoring for soil health indicators such as erosion, salinity, structure decline, and reductions in organic content.


In response to the severe impacts of the Orroral Valley bushfire and post-fire rainfall, undertake actions to improve land health recovery in high priority areas.

L1: Land use change




Although nearly 75% of ACT Government land is zoned for natural ecosystems and greenspace, urban expansion driven by population growth continues to be an environmental challenge. In addition, the ACT’s projected future urban growth does not support a compact and efficient city. To help reduce future urban growth, the ACT is meeting its 70% urban infill target for the number of dwellings constructed, and the proportion of medium and high-density housing is increasing. However, the area of land required for greenfield housing is far greater than the land used for infill developments.

There is a lack of comprehensive data on land use change in the ACT which remains a significant limitation for land use assessments.

L2: Land health




The Orroral Valley bushfire, and post-fire storms and rainfall, severely affected land health in Namadgi National Park, causing extreme erosion and other soil issues in the burnt area. These have led to a range of environmental impacts such as degraded aquatic ecosystems and damage to infrastructure. Other impacts on land health include climate change, urban developments in greenfield areas, and agriculture on rural lands.

There is a lack of knowledge about land health in the ACT, both for long-term changes and current conditions, meaning that an assessment of land health is not possible. This remains a critical gap in our understanding of environmental condition.


Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.

Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.

Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.

Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.



Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus.

Limited evidence or limited consensus.

Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment.

Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator.

Land use and land use change 2019–20 to 202223

Urban expansion

Greenfield versus infill development

Land health

During this reporting period the ACT Government conducted a review of the ACT Planning System, which resulted in the repeal of the Planning and Development Act 2007 and its replacement with the new Planning Act 2023. Under this Act, a new Territory Plan was introduced in November 2023. The new ACT Planning System is described as outcomes-focussed, with planning decisions based on the anticipated real-world impacts of developments rather than relying on a tick-box approach. Encouragingly, the new Territory Plan includes Natural environmental conservation and Sustainability and resilience among its key principles. It is not yet possible to determine whether the new planning framework will result in measurable improvements in the ACT’s planning and land management practices.

It is of grave environmental concern that areas designated in the new Territory Plan as Future Urban Area include places known to support threatened ecosystems and species such as Bluett’s Block and grasslands in the north of Canberra. Given the decline in threatened species and ecosystems documented in this report, further development in these areas should not occur.