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Brisbane tops ranking of Australia’s leafiest cities

Jan 2023

National artificial intelligence data from Nearmap for the first time reveals Australia’s greenest cities and suburbs, with Brisbane toping the list.

Jan 2023

National Artificial Intelligence data from Nearmap for the first time reveals Australia’s greenest cities and suburbs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (10 December 2021) – Brisbane has the leafiest populated suburbs of any Australian capital city, according to new analysis by Australian aerial imagery and location intelligence company Nearmap. This is the first and only research of its kind in Australia that uses a nationally consistent, high-resolution data set to compare total tree cover across all Australian capital cities.
The analysis by Nearmap of approximately 5,000 suburbs nationwide shows 79% of people in Greater Brisbane live in populated suburbs with total tree cover greater than 20%.1 Hobart is a close second with 71% of people living in areas with over 20% tree cover, followed by Darwin at 66%, the ACT at 58%, and Greater Sydney at 44%.
Dr Rob Newman, Managing Director and CEO of Nearmap said: “The consistency and national coverage of the data for the first time provides a powerful picture of the density of urban forests, property development and population distribution across the nation today.“
Nearmap provides high-resolution aerial imagery and location insights over time that put in perspective the balance between built and natural environments as cities continue to sprawl. By revealing the major cities that are successfully creating green spaces – and which ones may need additional focus or investment – we can give local governments and other organisations the information and tools they need to create more resilient and sustainable communities.”

Communities keeping cool vs suburbs competing for shade

Locations with a lower percentage of tree cover in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth could see residents competing for shade as summer approaches. Only 30% of people in Greater Melbourne live in suburbs with more than 20% tree cover, and this drops even further to 26% of people in Adelaide, and 22% of people in Perth.
For residents in areas with lower tree coverage, the impacts are clear. Removing tree canopy can lead to the creation of urban heat islands, and has been shown to make cities 4-10 degrees hotter than surrounding areas.2 Trees and vegetation can also improve local water quality through reduced stormwater runoff and pollutants entering waterways.3 It also influences how ‘liveable’ an area is perceived. According to a separate study, the 2021 Liveability Census by Place Score, one of the key things residents look for in an ‘ideal’ suburb is healthy vegetation and green spaces.“
This national data can also inspire urban planners in locations that are less leafy,” Dr Newman said." Nearmap has seen dramatic and transformative improvements in tree cover that have been achieved in a relatively short time. In the case of Buxton NSW, for example, which was impacted by the Black Summer bushfires in 2019/20, our imagery and data reveals the vegetation has regenerated rapidly since the natural disaster. In fact, Buxton has today almost doubled its tree canopy, from 34% after the bushfires, to 59% tree cover today. This rebound offers us a lot of confidence that we can rapidly improve our environment.”

Sheldon, QLD, is Brisbane’s leafiest suburb

The analysis led by Dr Michael Bewley, Senior Director of Artificial Intelligence Systems, Nearmap also revealed the leafiest residential areas in each region across Australia’s capital cities. This was done to show areas with the greatest tree cover in the local areas where most Australian’s live – including our backyards and streets. In Greater Brisbane, the suburbs that enjoy the most residential tree cover include Sheldon (66 %), Mount Crosby (60% tree cover), and Burbank (55%). Warimoo (62%) , Annangrove (56%) and Church Point (53%) were named some of the greenest suburbs in Greater Sydney, while in Greater Melbourne, Olinda (71%) , North Warrandyte (64%) and Mount Macedon (60%) are some of the leafiest locales.
Dr Bryan Boruff, Environmental Geographer and Associate Professor in the University of Western Australia (UWA) School of Agriculture and Environment said: “Research shows the more greenery a residential area has, the better it is for the physical and mental health of the local community. Increasing vegetation in our cities is very doable. While we are seeing some positive changes, such as local governments committing to increases in tree canopy, there is still more that we can do.”
Dr Boruff added: “Increasing the number of trees in a local suburb might seem trivial. But the impact – in terms of health, liveability, and wellbeing – on local communities can be significant, and evolves over time.”
Dr Newman said: “Australia is one of the world’s most urbanised nations, and international and domestic migration have spurred rapid growth in our capital cities and urban centres. Today’s urban planners, designers, councils, and government organisations need reliable, up-to-date, and detailed information to help them make informed decisions, and better plan and build the cities of the future.”
Nearmap has unveiled the tree coverage of Australia’s capital cities using its Artificial Intelligence (AI) data and location intelligence tools. Nearmap AI uses machine learning to turn the company’s high-resolution aerial imagery that covers 90% of the Australian population into information and insights, creating one of the most accurate and richest AI offerings in the market. Around 90% of Australia’s top construction companies rely on Nearmap technology and content, and so do more than 250 customers across government and insurance.
Learn more about Nearmap AI or schedule a demo.
1. Methodology: The Nearmap Leafiest Suburbs analysis is based on Nearmap AI data, which detects trees approximately 2m or higher. The national aerial data was collected Oct 2020 - March 2021. Results were aggregated at meshblock level using the 2021 Australian Bureau of Statistics definitions. Approximately 5,000 suburbs were included in the analysis, where Nearmap AI coverage exceeded 99%. The top suburbs are those with the greatest percent tree cover in each 2021 SA4 region, and where there is a minimum population of 1,000 residents (2016 census). City-based metrics analyse all Nearmap AI covered suburbs within the relevant ABS GCCSA region. For the capital city suburb breakdowns, we also refined the analysis to only include ‘residential’ mesh blocks. All percentage figures have been rounded to the closest whole number.
2. Source: Research from RMIT's Sustainability and Urban planning program
3. Source: “Designing for a Cool City”, CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, 2020, p.17.