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About my region – Illawarra New South Wales

​​​​​​​​​​About my region is a series of individual profiles of the agricultural, forestry and fisheries industries in your region. This regional profile presents an overview of the agriculture and fisheries sectors in the Illawarra region and the recent New South Wales financial performance of the broadacre, dairy and​ vegetable industries.

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Regional overview

The Illawarra region of New South Wales includes the city of Wollongong and the hinterland area along the coast and west to the southern highlands region. The region comprises the three local government areas of Kiama, Shellharbour and Wollongong, and parts of the local government areas of Campbelltown, Sutherland Shire and Wollondilly to the north, and Shoalhaven and Wingecarribee to the south west. The region covers a total area of around 1,500 square kilometres or less than 1 per cent of New South Wales and is home to approximately 306,600 people (ABS 2018a).

Agricultural land in the Illawarra region occupies 480 square kilometres, or 31 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 900 square kilometres, or 57 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is minimal use, which occupies 500 square kilometres or 34 per cent of the Illawarra region (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in the Illawarra region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Illawarra region. It includes a legend which shows the broad land use categories— nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use; grazing native vegetation; production forestry; grazing modified pastures; plantation forestry; cropping; horticulture; intensive uses and water. This map is discussed in the above paragraph.
Source: Catchment scale land use of Australia - Update December 2018


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the February 2019 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 148,100 people were employed in the Illawarra region. The Illawarra region accounts for 4 per cent of total employment in New South Wales and less than 1 per cent of all people employed in the New South Wales agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 19,000 people, followed by education and training with 17,100 people, and retail trade with 16,900 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were construction; professional, scientific and technical services; and accommodation and food services. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 900 people, representing 1 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Illawarra region, February 2019
Shows the number of people employed in the Illawarra region by industry in thousands. The figure is discussed in the previous two paragraphs.
Note: Annual average of the preceding 4 quarters.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, cat. no. 6291.0, Labour Force, Australia 2019

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2016–17, the gross value of agricultural production in the Illawarra region was $30 million, which was less than 1 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in New South Wales ($14.5 billion).

The most important commodities in the Illawarra region based on the gross value of agricultural production were milk ($18 million), followed by cattle and calves ($8 million) and mushrooms ($1.3 million). These commodities together contributed 93 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region.

Value of agricultural production, Illawarra region, 2016–17
Shows the gross value of agricultural production in the Illawarra region in millions of dollars. The figure is discussed in the previous two paragraphs.
Note: The graph shows only data published by the ABS. Some values were not published by the ABS to ensure confidentiality. The "Other commodities" category includes the total value of commodities not published as well as those with small values.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, cat. no. 7503.0, Value of agricultural commodities produced, Australia 2018

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2016–17 there were 79 farms in the Illawarra region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The region contains less than 1 per cent of all farm businesses in New South Wales.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Illawarra region, 2016–17
Industry classificationIllawarraNew South Wales
Number of farms% of RegionNumber of farmsContribution of region to state total %
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)          4354.2     6,9680.6
Dairy Cattle Farming          2937.1         9023.2
Other            78.7   18,1540
Total agriculture           79 100    26,024 0.3

Note: Estimated value of agricultural operations $40,000 or more. Industries that constitute less than 1 per cent of the region's industry are not shown.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (43 farms) were the most common, accounting for 54 per cent of all farms in the Illawarra region, and less than 1 per cent of all beef cattle farms in New South Wales.

Estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) is a measure of the value of production from farms and a measure of their business size. Around 56 per cent of farms in the Illawarra region had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 11 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2016–17. In comparison, 26 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $500,000 and accounted for an estimated 74 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Illawarra region in 2016–17.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Illawarra region, 2016–17
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Illawarra region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Note: Only farms with an EVAO of $50,000 or more in 2016–17 are included in these data. The scope of ABS Rural Environment and Agricultural Collections changed in 2015–16 to include only agricultural businesses with an EVAO of $40,000 or greater.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018

Farm financial performance

Estimates of financial performance are available for all broadacre, beef, sheep, grains, dairy and vegetable farms in New South Wales.

Fisheries sector

The coast line of the Illawarra region extends north from Gerringong to the Royal National Park. Most of the commercial and recreational fishing in this region occurs in Lake Illawarra. The main species caught in Lake Illawarra are finfish including sea mullet, luderick, dusky flathead, and silver biddy. Prawns, blue swimmer crabs, and shellfish are also harvested from the Lake Illawarra area. The key recreational species caught in the region are tailor, kingfish, Australian salmon, luderick, snapper, bream, whiting, leatherjacket, and flathead. Gamefishing is also a popular recreational pursuit in the region, targeting larger finfish species such as tuna, marlin, and billfish.

In 2015–16 the gross value of New South Wales fisheries production was estimated to be around $156 million, increasing by 4 per cent ($6 million) from 2014–15. New South Wales contributed 5 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2015–16. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 58 per cent ($91 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 42 per cent ($65 million).

New South Wales wild-catch fisheries provide a range of fisheries products. In 2015–16, finfish species contributed 47 per cent of the wild-catch production, valued at $43 million. The main finfish species landed were sea mullet, with a gross value of production of $9.6 million, followed by black and yellowfin bream ($3.6 million), school whiting ($2.8 million), snapper ($2.0 million), and sand whiting ($1.5 million). Prawns contributed 19 per cent of the total value of wild-catch fisheries with a value of $17.3 million, with other important crustacean groups being eastern rock lobster (13 per cent; $11.8 million), and crabs (10 per cent; $9.5 million).

In 2015–16 the value of New South Wales aquaculture production is estimated to have increased by 7 per cent ($4.2 million) to $65 million. Oyster production makes the greatest contribution to New South Wales aquaculture production, accounting for 68 per cent of production by value, worth $44.3 million. Prawns ($6.0 million) and finfish aquaculture species, including silver perch ($3 million), trout ($2.3 million), and barramundi ($1.0 million) make up most of the remaining aquaculture production.

Commonwealth fisheries active in New South Wales include the Small Pelagic Fishery, the Eastern Tuna and Billfish fishery (mainly supplying export markets with tuna), and the Commonwealth trawl sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark fishery.

In 2015–16, New South Wales fisheries product exports were valued at $23.3 million. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen fish, rock lobster, and abalone. Japan and Vietnam, are the major destinations for New South Wales fisheries exports, accounting for 45 per cent and 13 per cent of the total value of exports in 2015–16, respectively. Other major export destinations include New Zealand (9 per cent), Spain (5 per cent), and Taiwan (5 per cent).

The New South Wales coast line is an important recreational fishing area, with a multitude of inlets and estuaries from which to fish. Being a tourism precinct, the region offers a number of recreational fishing opportunities, with the value of this activity to the regional economy likely to be significant. There are also a range of game fishing tournaments throughout the year, including in the Bermagui and Port Stephens area, targeting tuna and marlin species. New South Wales also contains a number of recreational only fishing areas, especially in the far south coast of New South Wales, a popular destination for both marine and freshwater recreational fishers. A large number of recreational fishers also fish in the Greater Sydney area, stretching from Newcastle to the Illawarra area, and comprising the city areas of Newcastle, Sydney, and Wollongong. Species commonly targeted in the area include yellowfin bream, dusky flathead, yellowtail, blue swimmer crab, squid, and southern calamari (Steffe & Murphy 2011).


ABARES 2016, Land Use of Australia 2010–11, ABARES, Canberra, May.

ABARES 2018, Catchment scale land use of Australia – December 2018, Canberra, December.

ABS 2018a, Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2017, cat. no. 3235.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 10 January 2019.

ABS 2018b Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia, 2016-17, cat. no 7503.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 03 April 2019.

ABS 2019 Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Feb 2019, cat. no. 6291.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 03 April 2019.

Steffe, AS & Murphy, JJ 2011, Recreational fishing surveys in the Greater Sydney Region. Fisheries final report series, no. 131, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla, New South Wales.



Last reviewed:
06 Jun 2019