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Latest data from NT Land Use Study provides new snapshot on how the Territory’s 1.35 million sq km is being used

Featured image: DENR land use mapping officer Bart Edmeades uses the new land use smartphone app to record an Okra crop in the Marrakai area. Credit: DENR

The first land use study in over eight years has confirmed that more than 99% of the Northern Territory is still grazed native pastures, Aboriginal Land or conservation areas.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Land Assessment Branch Director, Jason Hill, said the study - jointly funded by the Commonwealth and DENR through the Australian Land Use and Management Program - provided a new snapshot on how the Territory’s 1.35 million square kilometres is being used. 

“The new information will underpin economic analyses, provide valuable statistics on the agricultural sector, assist strategic land use planning and regional development, and assist managing a range of sustainability issues,” Mr. Hill said. 

“DENR developed an app used on smartphones and field tablets to record the location, land use and collect photographs at 2,847 sites, with each site taking less than a minute.”

This data was then analysed using European Space Agency satellite technology (Sentinel) and high-resolution aerial imagery to accurately map land uses across the Territory.

One of the project’s key aims was to map the extent of agricultural and horticultural crops important to biosecurity management.

DENR engaged the Northern Territory Farmers Association and the Department of Primary Industry and Resources to assist with field data collection. 

Mr. Owens, CEO of NT Farmers said: “The new information is critical for updating the economic profile of plant based industries, protecting Territory growers from biosecurity risks and further developing the agricultural and horticulture sectors.”

The results indicate that dryland agriculture accounts for 197,887 ha or 0.146% of the NT, irrigated agriculture 22,648 ha or 0.017% and plantation forests 54,337 ha or 0.035%.  

Interestingly, this was less than the 272,396 ha (0.2%) of transport and communication facilities.  

“For the first time, the study accurately mapped individual agricultural commodities and revealed that mango plantations cover the largest area (6,643 ha), followed by sandalwood (3316 ha) and melons (2,461ha),” Mr. Hill said.

The new land use mapping also provides a new insight into the areas of land under mining related activities (41,884 ha), utilities, industry and commercial services (41,263 ha), residential, and peri-urban development (63,414 ha).

New Land use mapping the Darwin area. Credit: DENR

The project’s findings are summarised in the report, Northern Territory Land Use Mapping for Biosecurity 2016 is available from the Northern Territory Library.

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