Source: Richie Southerton


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.

For background information on this indicator see Background: Land.

There has been no recent systematic assessment of soil condition in the ACT. Consequently, it is not possible to assess the condition of soils and land health in the ACT due to the lack of data.

Land health is currently limited to research undertaken on the types and characteristics of soil landscapes in the ACT, the nature and consequences of potential soil degradation, the management required to reduce risks, the salinity risks and priority areas for management.

Whilst this information is valuable to assist planning and other activities such as fire and storm impact assessments and recovery, these studies do not measure the actual extent of soil degradation in the ACT, nor the impacts of such degradation. For more information see the 2019 ACT State of the Environment Report.

The biggest impacts on the ACT’s land health come from land use changes, particularly urban development, and rural lands with livestock and high levels of historic vegetation clearing. Large bushfires also have a significant impact on land health, particularly in the immediate post-fire period when ground cover vegetation has been removed.

For private land, assessments of soil health and remediation may be undertaken by community natural resource management groups such as Landcare and Greening Australia with participating landholders (see 3. Community leadership).

One of the biggest impacts on land health in the ACT has come from the 2020 Orroral Valley bushfire which burnt 80% of Namadgi National Park and 22% of the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. (see Fire and 4. Bushfires in the ACT.

The impacts of the fires on land health in Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla were compounded by post-fire severe storms and high rainfall. In areas where fire had removed most of the vegetation and ground cover, the high rainfall caused extreme levels of erosion and mobilised large amounts of sediment and debris. The level of erosion was also increased by the steep terrain in many burn areas.

Post-fire erosion resulted in the further loss of vegetation, and greatly degraded water quality and aquatic ecosystem health. The erosion and debris flows also damaged infrastructure such as roads, walking trails and fences.

Fire suppression activities for the Orroral Valley bushfire have also impacted on land health. For example, bulldozer operations to construct approximately 577 kms of control lines (the majority of these were along existing fire trails) have impacted on soil cover and structure, and increased the likelihood of erosion.

The ACT is undertaking a range of activities to restore land health in the bushfire affected areas. These include works to control erosion, soil stabilisation works, and the restoration of vegetation cover.

Land health will take many years to recover in those areas severely impacted by bushfire and post-fire rainfall. Improvements in land health will be greatly dependent on the recovery of vegetation. Until vegetation cover improves, lands will still be prone to erosion and degraded soil health.

The Environment Protection Authority has the regulatory responsibility for the oversight of the remediation of contaminated sites. Contaminated sites such as old petrol stations and fuel storage often require ongoing monitoring to determine any continuing impacts; other sites may be remediated with no further monitoring required.

Remediated sites are not currently removed from the contaminated sites register to ensure that any future use of these sites is compatible with site remediation. For example, a site may be remediated to a level that can accommodate industrial development but may not be appropriate for residential development.

As at June 2023, there were 1218 contaminated sites recorded in the ACT, this is an increase of 130 sites since 2019. Contaminated sites include 652 fuel storage facilities (includes sites previously used for fuel storage), 153 former sheep dip sites, 122 landfills/spoil dumps and 291 other contaminated sites (for example, sites with chlorinated hydrocarbons and heavy metals). The majority of the contaminated sites have been assessed and remediated to be suitable for their current permitted uses.

Compliance with the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure ensures that the ACT is achieving the national environment protection standard for the assessment of contaminated sites. This NEPM does not include site remediation.

The ACT must report annually on compliance with the site contamination NEPM to the National Environment Protection Council. Up to and including 2022–23, the ACT’s contaminated sites monitoring and reporting activities were found to comply with the NEPM.