More trees and green spaces in new residential developments


A proposed variation to the ACT Territory Plan will increase the requirements on new residential developments in Canberra for planting of trees and green space.

Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman said the proposed territory plan variation, which will be referred to the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services this week, will increase tree canopy coverage and provide more green space in Canberra.

These proposed changes mean Canberra will be even greener, boosting the number of trees and green spaces in new residential areas,” Minister Gentleman said.

“We have listened to Canberrans and will ensure that as our city becomes denser, it will retain its Bush Capital feel. We are also responding to concerns that big houses lacking green space are heating our city,” he said.

“Developers and builders will need to include bigger backyards and green spaces for all new developments, ensuring our growing city remains sustainable while retaining its character.”

There are currently no rules requiring ACT residential landowners to have tree canopy cover on their block. These proposed changes will introduce a new site coverage requirement for single dwellings and multi-unit development in residential areas and require at least 20 per cent tree canopy coverage for multi-unit development in higher density developments.

The proposed changes will also increase the amount of green space on residential blocks by updating the definition of ‘planting area’ to exclude areas such as patios and swimming pools. The amount of planting area required will also be increased. 

The ACT Government will next look at introducing tree planting and green space requirements in the Estate Development Code and for residential buildings in Commercial Zones. This is anticipated as part of the new Territory Plan delivered under the Planning System Review and Reform Project.

Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said that this draft variation will deliver on key actions outlined in the ACT Government’s Living Infrastructure Plan.

“Planning is one way we can influence how our bush capital develops. Draft Variation 369 will significantly strengthen the contribution that residential developments make to tree canopy and green infrastructure and reducing the impacts of climate change,” Minster Vassarotti said.

“These changes respond to community feedback that living infrastructure should be embedded across private and public land. They will see improved urban tree coverage and green spaces across our city that will not only help reduce urban heat but will increase our natural biodiversity. They specify site footprints on each residential block type to ensure there is sufficient soil and green space and that trees are planted and will be able to thrive.

“Canberra's Living Infrastructure Plan, released in 2019, included actions to help the government plan, design, construct and manage our city in a way that values, incorporates and protects natural assets.

“These changes are just one step the government is taking to meet the 2045 targets set out in Canberra's Living Infrastructure Plan relating to tree canopy cover and permeable surfaces. DV369 and other planning reforms are complemented by the Government’s ongoing work to implement the Urban Forest Strategy, including significant legislative reform. This will ensure that living infrastructure is embedded across our city and that we reach our 30 per cent canopy cover target by 2045.”

Pending a decision by the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services, the ACT Government will look at introducing these changes in 2022.

This announcement delivers on the Government’s commitment in the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement towards increasing the urban tree canopy.

You can find out more information on DV369 Living Infrastructure in Residential Zones on the ACT Government’s Planning website.