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Premier's Priorities

Valuing green infrastructure and public spaces

Green infrastructure and public spaces are essential for liveability, and they provide social, economic, environmental and cultural value to communities. COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of public access to quality green and public spaces for well-being and community resilience.

The NSW Government has made ambitious strategic commitments to increase green and public spaces, including through the Premier’s Priorities:

  • Greener public spaces: increase the proportion of homes in urban areas within 10 minutes’ walk of green and public spaces by 10% by 2023
  • Greening our city: expand urban tree canopy and green cover across Greater Sydney by planting one million trees by 2022.
Policy roundtable

On 27 October 2021, the department held a virtual roundtable event where leading economists and policy makers explored innovative valuation and policy approaches that capture the benefits of green infrastructure and public spaces.

Watch video

Benefits of green infrastructure and public spaces

Public spaces provide important benefits such as:

  • improved physical and mental health
  • increased urban amenity
  • boosted labour productivity
  • enhanced property values
  • expanded business incomes by increasing street activity.

Green infrastructure is also vital to the provision and maintenance of biodiversity in urban areas and to reducing urban temperatures and increasing resilience to a changing climate.

However, the benefits of these green assets are difficult to accurately quantify and give a monetary value to - compared to more traditional types of infrastructure.

Valuing benefits

The series of graphics below showcase examples of the financial benefits that green infrastructure and public spaces provide.

This information was collated from existing studies and demonstrates the type of information a valuation framework can provide.

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Waterways:  Sydney Water surveyed households in the Georges, Cooks and Parramatta river catchments. They found on average people were willing to pay $0.93 per annum for 10 years for every extra kilometre of waterway in good health in 30 years’ time and $0.18 per annum for 10 years for every additional garbage truck load of rubbish and litter removed from the waterways annually.
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National Parks:  Studies have shown that people are willing to pay more to protect biodiversity. A 2019 study also estimated that NSW residents experienced a $90 consumer surplus for each visit to bushland areas.
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Open spaces:  Studies have shown that greater access to open space has a flow on effect on people’s physical and mental health and would reduce health expenses for physical inactivity. Trees also provide urban cooling benefits and consequently buildings and infrastructure energy savings.
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Streets and public facilities:  Vibrant streets and public facilities generate positive social, economic, cultural and environmental outcomes. Studies have shown that people are willing to pay $74 per year for access to public libraries. Museum visitors spend an additional $58 on average on food, beverages and retail goods. The health benefits of switching to active modes of transport such as walking, and cycling can also result in reduced health costs.

Developing a new valuation framework

The department is developing a sector-specific framework for valuing green infrastructure and public spaces (the framework). The framework will be a public document that can be used to help prepare economic evaluations, including cost-benefit analysis, to ensure we have a consistent approach to valuing these important assets.

When approved, the framework will be a companion to the NSW Government's Guide to Cost-Benefit Analysis. It will include guidance and endorsed valuation methods to monetise the costs and benefits of green infrastructure and public spaces and will include repeatable dollar values of some benefits.

A clear and robust framework for valuing these benefits will enable a more consistent approach for decision makers considering investment proposals involving green infrastructure and public spaces.

What’s happening now?

Development of the framework is underway and is expected to be completed by early 2022.

We have already completed a number of studies to inform the framework and have a choice modelling study underway.

The choice modelling study will generate new parameter values that reflect how people in urban NSW value green infrastructure and public spaces.

This will include values for:

  • wellbeing
  • access to public open space
  • shared greenery on public and private land
  • ecosystem services benefits.

The outcomes of this study will be published in late 2021.

We will be sharing information about the project and our research over the coming months.

Valuing green infrastructure and public spaces in practice

The framework will outline approaches to monetise the benefits of green infrastructure and public spaces. Below read two examples of projects where the unique benefits of these assets were monetised.

How Moreland City Council monetised the benefits of improving tree canopy in their community.

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How Sydney Water monetised the community benefits of improving the health of waterways in Greater Sydney.

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Want to know more?

To find out more about valuing green infrastructure and public spaces, download the frequently asked questions about the project (PDF, 111 KB).

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Banner image credit: Destination NSW

Streetscapes of Central Park buildings in Chippendale, Sydney.