ACT's natural asset values doubles in a decade

It is easy to fall in love with the bush capital way of life, but do you ever stop to think how much our natural assets are worth?

The value of Australia's environmental assets has almost trebled in the past decade, rising from $2.953 billion in 2006 to $6.138 billion in mid-2016. 

Canberra's natural assets more than doubled in value, rising from $35.9 billion in 2005-06 to and estimated $76.1 billion.

Peter Meadows, assistant director of the ABS Environmental Accounts Development, said the sharp rise in natural capital value was "outstripping growth in GDP."

"I haven't seen anything grow as fast as that apart form the value of exports," he said.

After tallying up land, mineral, timber and water values for each jurisdiction it was clear land value was boosting the figures.


"Land now makes up 83 per cent of the value of Australia's environmental assets and was valued at $5,105 billion at 30 June 2016," he said.

"The total value of Australia's environmental assets amounts to $254,406 for every person in Australia (based on a population of just over 24 million)."

Mr Meadows said publishing the Australian Environmental Economic Accounts provided a basis for long-term planning to ensure the national economy was primed to respond to environmental pressures.

"The way to look at the figures is in terms of income into the future. Over the longer term that land is going to be worth six trillion dollars to the economy," he said. 

"If that number starts to go down over time it means we are depleting that resource faster than we can generate income from it."

Mineral and energy resources among Australia's environmental assets rose from 8 per cent to 17 per cent in the eleven years to 2015-16.

The value of Australia's timber assets grew by 20 per cent between over the same period. 

These numbers were bolstered by a reduction in household water consumption and an overall reduction in greenhouse gasses created mainly due reduced emissions from forestry, fisheries and livestock sectors.

"It's a good story in terms of we are not contributing as much to the global warming effect, but it does mean we are actually seeing less production of livestock in Australia," he said.

"There is a bit of a trade off that probably Australian's aren't aware of. We can pat ourselves on the head and say we have done really well in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, but we are reducing our productive capability over time as well."

Mr Meadow said the Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts report enabled Australians to observe the result of policy settings so far, and think about how the nation secures the right mix to reap maximum returns without diminishing future prospects.

"What gives us the best value, the best climate, the best set of goods and services we derive from ecosystems, that is something the policy makers need to think about," he said. 

"The volume of land doesn't change, the way it is being used does pretty significantly as does the value we contribute to it."