Australia’s largest urban greening initiative has revealed 67 percent of suburbs and cities across the country will face significant challenges in growing and maintaining green cover in the future, as our cities grapple with a rising population and grey spaces expand with urban development.

Where Will All The Trees Be?​ ​ –​ the third report in Australia’s only national tree canopy benchmarking series, led by RMIT University and​ ​Greener Spaces Better Places​ – also confirms the majority (69 percent) of our urban areas have lost green cover (trees and shrubs) since 2013, spanning 131 urban and peri-urban Local Government Areas (LGAs).

While promisingly over the last four years 63 percent of places increased their green cover, during the same period 73 percent of LGAs increased their grey cover - hard surfaces such as roads, pavement and roofs.

A growing population means more pressure on green cover in our suburbs and cities - as our cities and suburbs grow, it is vital our green cover keeps pace.

Associate Professor Joe Hurley RMIT lead researcher, says that while some places are defying the odds and growing thriving urban forests, others have reported concerning levels of loss and face significant challenges to grow their green cover in the future.

“Fundamentally, as our suburbs, towns and cities grow, so should our green cover - but in order to increase our urban green cover, we need to understand what’s happening where, and why.”

“From this study, we can see green cover varies wildly by place. For example, Cairns Regional Council has Australia’s highest recorded level of green cover, with 82.9 percent, whereas Wyndham City Council has Australia’s lowest recorded level of green cover with 5.4 percent. However, this isn’t a full and fair picture of what is going on.”

“Cairns have a higher than average rainfall and contain large areas of native forest. Whereas Wyndham contains large areas of grassland and agricultural land, limiting its opportunities for urban greening. It is important to recognise that place type and context really matters.”

“This study is a deep dive into the rates of increase and decline of urban greening across Australia, but through the lens of six different place types determined by rainfall, urbanisation and population density. These place types help us more usefully compare performance within and across cities to understand what improvement might be possible with concerted effort, and what deterioration might occur with complacency,” he says.

“Over time, changes in population will be inevitable, but there’s no reason why our cities can’t have thriving urban forests. There are great examples all over Australia of how this can happen,” says Hurley.  

 The study identified the following as ‘best on ground’ - places who have maintained or grown their green cover despite population pressures or grey cover increases:

● City of Whittlesea, Victoria (suburban, spacious and low rainfall)

● Logan City Council, Queensland (suburban, spacious and high rainfall)

● City of Greater Dandenong, Victoria (urban, spacious and low rainfall)

● Kwinana City Council, Western Australia (urban, spacious and high rainfall)

● City of Unley, South Australia (urban, spacious and low rainfall)

● The City of Parramatta, New South Wales (urban, compact and high rainfall)