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Premier's Priorities

Valuing green infrastructure and public spaces

As demonstrated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, green infrastructure and public spaces play an important role in providing quality of life and amenity for our communities. 

Green and public space can help improve physical and mental health, increase urban amenity, enhance local property values and provide places for our unique plants and animals to live.

In recognition of Premier’s Priorities 11 and 12, the department is working closely with NSW Treasury to deliver a green and public space sector-specific valuation framework.

  • Premier’s Priority 11 - Greener public spaces increase the proportion of homes in urban areas within 10 minutes’ walk of green and public spaces by 10% by 2023
  • Premier’s Priority 12 - Greening our city: expand urban tree canopy and green cover across Greater Sydney by planting one million trees by 2022.

The valuation framework

The department has developed a sector-specific framework for valuing green infrastructure and public spaces (the framework) that can be used to help prepare economic evaluations, including cost-benefit analysis. The framework has been published as an interim document to allow user testing ahead of its finalisation with NSW Treasury.

Once finalised, 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?

An Interim Framework for Valuing Green Infrastructure and Public Spaces (PDF, 934 KB) is now available. It will be trialled by cost benefit analysis practitioners on NSW Department of Planning and Environment business cases in 2022. This will allow the guidance and values proposed in the document to be tested and refined based on real world experience before it will be rolled out for use by other NSW Government agencies.

View the interim framework

The interim framework is complemented by Technical appendices for recommended approaches (PDF, 1.5 MB).

Contact the team

If you have any questions or comments about the interim framework, you can email the project team at vgipsframework@dpie.nsw.gov.au.

Your feedback will help us test and refine the framework before finalising the document.

To find out more about valuing green infrastructure and public spaces, download the frequently asked questions about the project (PDF, 164 KB).

Next steps

The final version of the framework will also include the results of a choice modelling study (willingness to pay study) that is underway. This study aims to uncover how the NSW community value their green infrastructure and public spaces, and will generate values for:

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

Policy roundtable

In October 2021, we 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

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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Graphic cartoon illustration of people removing and bagging rubbish near a waterway.
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.

Examples of valuing green infrastructure and public spaces

Two examples of existing projects that quantified the value of green infrastructure and public spaces are:

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

Download now

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

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Banner image credit: Destination NSW

Streetscapes of Central Park buildings in Chippendale, Sydney.