How green is your suburb? The benefits of increasing vegetation cover across Greater Sydney

By Claire Laws 14 February 2024

The way we design our cities and suburbs impacts our wellbeing – after all, they are where we live, work and rest. A good coverage of trees and other vegetation is important to ensure these spaces are sustainable and more livable.

Through its urban greening program, the New South Wales Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure aims to increase green cover across Greater Sydney and lift urban canopy coverage to 40 per cent by 2036. To help achieve this, the department has released their updated tree canopy data, which is available to the public on the New South Wales Government’s SEED portal

Consultants conducted aerial surveys using remote sensing and employed AI image analysis technology to calculate canopy cover, tree height, vegetation health, land surface temperature and location of individual trees. The dataset available to the public via the SEED portal shows both tree canopy and overall vegetation cover for different height classes.  

Having accurate tree canopy data helps the NSW Government and local councils across Greater Sydney make more informed decisions and enables the identification of priority areas for urban greening. Future updates to the dataset are expected in 2024 and 2026 to help track progress towards the 2036 target. 

Encouragingly, we are heading in the right direction - tree canopy coverage across Greater Sydney has increased from 21 per cent in 2019 to 21.7 per cent in 2022. The largest increases have been in the hottest areas of Central and Western Sydney, which aligns with recent government investment in urban greening in Greater Sydney. 

Why is it important to increase tree canopy area and overall vegetation cover? 

Trees and green spaces offer a range of environmental, social and health and wellbeing benefits. By working together to increase vegetation cover across Greater Sydney, we can all enjoy these benefits. 

  • Privacy – trees and shrubs help create a more private backyard or balcony space 

  • Shade and cooling – trees provide shade and reduce urban temperatures, which is especially important during our increasingly warm summers. 

  • Clean air – plants reduce pollution levels and improve urban air quality. 

  • Food – growing your own fruit trees and other edible plants is highly rewarding. 

  • Mental health and wellbeing – spending time in local parks and other green spaces helps us relax and connect with nature. These spaces are also where many of us exercise and socialise. 

  • Biodiversity – by planting trees, shrubs and grasses we provide shelter and food for our unique native wildlife. Urban green space also provides vital linkages between important habitats and provides corridors for species movement in response to climate change. 

How green is your suburb? 

Perhaps your suburb is doing well, or maybe there is lots more potential for urban greening? Use the interactive map in the SEED portal to explore tree canopy cover and overall vegetation cover for locations across Greater Sydney.  Help Greater Sydney reach 40 per cent tree canopy cover by 2036! We can all help increase green cover across Greater Sydney. If everyone plants one or more tree or shrubs in their backyard or on their balcony we will notice the difference – every extra bit of green counts! Find some tips to help you get started here. If you would like to move beyond your own backyard, get involved in National Tree Day and join a tree planting event in your local community.  

So, what are you waiting for? Get your hands dirty and start planting today to ensure we all continue to enjoy the many benefits provided by our urban green spaces. 

Claire Laws
Claire joined the Planet Ark team in 2021. With a background in Environmental Science and a Masters in Environmental Law and Sustainable Development, Claire is keen to build on her previous work in ecological research and be part of Planet Ark's actions-based approach to environmental protection.