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Completed project

Where will all the trees be? (NY19001)

Key research provider: RMIT University
Publication date: Friday, April 16, 2021

What was it all about?

This investment provided the nursery industry and other key audiences such as councils, government and communities with an understanding of the current and possible future trajectories of urban forest cover across Australian cities.

This information will help inform the development of other Hort Innovation Nursery Fund investments, relating to both R&D and the levy-funded marketing initiative Greener Spaces, Better Places. It will also serve to highlight areas where increased consumption of green life products may be needed by governments, businesses, school and consumers. This will improve planning by the industry to cater for any increased demand.

The project team conducted the following activities:

  • Assessed land cover across 131 local government areas in Australia, covering all significant urban centres. This 2020 assessment built on similar assessments done in 2013 and 2016, allowing cover trends to be established across the three timepoints.

  • Surveyed local government professionals working in urban forest management seeking information on the enablers and barriers to better urban forest management.

  • Reviewed state statutory planning policy looking at likely influences on the presence of trees through their retention, removal, management and establishment.

The key findings were:

  • A slight decline in urban forest cover at national level. At the local government area level, since 2013 the majority (69 per cent) are losing green cover. However, in the more recent study period between 2016 and 2020, the majority of local government areas (62 per cent) are increasing green cover.

  • The survey of local government professionals indicated that the majority were well progressed in developing and maintaining a strong management framework to address urban forest cover on public land, and that they have strong organisational and community support to do this work.

  • Challenges exist in influencing the level of green cover on private land, which is a critical area for improvement in the future.


Access the outputs produced by this project on the Greener Spaces Better Places website, which allows users to enter their local area and view an online green cover summary report for their local government areas, including comparisons between similar areas and assessments of future challenges.

From the website, you can download a public, industry-facing report covering all 131 local government areas in the study titled “Where Will All the Trees Be? The 2020 update of green cover benchmarking in our cities and suburbs”.

Additionally, you can view 131 individual local government areas green cover summary reports including trendlines, comparison between similar areas and assessment of future challenges.

Related levy funds

This project was a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Nursery Fund