The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) was seeking to further understand the economic value of investing in urban open spaces. Such investment may be to improve accessibility, preserve natural capital and restore modified urban open spaces. Given that the services offered by urban natural capital are not directly traded in a market, non-market valuation techniques were used to estimate the economic values of the relevant assets and their services to the community. The valuation approach utilised an ecosystem services framework to scope and value benefits of open spaces.

Moreland local government area (LGA) in Victoria was used as a study area. It is located in the inner north of Greater Melbourne and has an estimated 1,005 ha of open space, which is approximately 20% of the total LGA area. Over half of this area is public open spaces (576 ha), and 344 ha is restricted public land. Only 85 ha is private open spaces.

An ecosystem services valuation approach was used to identify the following services associated with open spaces within the study area:
1. Carbon sequestration (regulating service),
2. Contribution to property price premiums (aesthetics – cultural services),
3. Mitigation of climate extremes including urban heat islands (climate regulating service),
4. Noise pollution reduction (regulating service),
5. Air quality improvements (regulating service),
6. Support for human well-being through improved physical activity, stress reduction and general relaxation (cultural services),
7. Visual amenity to local and visiting population (cultural services),
8. Casual or commute trip connection passages/paths leading to traffic decongestion (cultural services), and
9. Public recreation and exercise areas for cycling, running and walking (cultural services).

Further investigation was then undertaken to collect and collate data to determine which services would be included in the economic evaluation.

The study findings provide monetary values for benefits of urban natural open spaces and can also be used to inform business cases development and cost-sharing arrangements between government and private property developers.

The project findings will be used to inform policy, support efficient resource allocation and support the prioritisation of different open space works.