Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Beeton RJS (Bob), Buckley Kristal I, Jones Gary J, Morgan Denise, Reichelt Russell E, Trewin Dennis
(2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee), 2006

8. Land

In this section

Australia’s land use has and is being fundamentally shaped and influenced by thousands of years of Indigenous use and two centuries of European settlement. Changes in vegetation and patterns of settlement and land use continue to be significant sources of pressure on Australia’s natural and cultural environment.

Agriculture is still the main use of land in Australia, occupying some 62 per cent of the continent (Table 18), with much of that in the rangelands. Sheep and cattle grazing and cropping continue to return high economic benefit to Australia, but contribute to habitat loss, surface soil loss, salinity, and soil and water quality issues, and there are ongoing concerns about sustainable farming and land use management. Surface soil loss was exacerbated by the 2002–03 drought, leading to the highest national dust storm activity since measurements began in the 1960s.

Table 18: Land use in Australia (National Land Use 1996-97 Summary Statistics) (more information on this topic) 
Land use % of total
Agriculture   61.5  
  Grazing natural vegetation (rangelands)   56
  Dryland grazing (improved pastures)   2.5
  Cropping   2.8
Minimal use   15  
Traditional Indigenous uses   12  
Biodiversity conservation   6.1  
Forestry   2.0  
Water   1.7  
Managed resource protection   1.4  
Urban uses      
Total   100  

Source: DAFF (2006)

Increasing uptake of a ‘landscape’ view by governments, regional management groups and farmers is boosting the prospects for sustainable land management. As part of this, landscape objectives that integrate local actions are expected to be a key management tool over the next decade. In this context, the regional NAP and NHT programmes remain important in funding and guiding catchment and bioregional planning and management. It is expected that the benefits of extensive Australian, state and territory government investments in land and resource management will emerge during the coming years.