As the urban population of Australia continues to grow, additional urban land is required to house the population, or existing urban land has to be used more intensely—together, these changes are known as an increased urban footprint. Although the latter does not lead to a growth in the physical size of cities, it does place pressure on the availability of open space for recreational purposes and the quality of the natural environment within the built environment.
Metropolitan plans in each capital city aim to strike a balance between housing development in new 'greenfield' locations (previously undeveloped land used for parks or agriculture) and in existing urban areas. However, given the projections that most of Australia's population growth will occur in the larger cities, it can be expected that, under current trends, our cities will increase in physical size over the years and decades ahead. Many of Australia's largest cities are located in areas of high-quality agricultural land or near areas of environmental significance, and expanding urban areas place significant pressures on these scarce or precious assets. For example, there are pressures to subdivide bushland near cities. Coastal landscapes are particularly prized, and most urban growth in Australia is occurring in coastal areas.