About my region – Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) 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 Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region and the recent New South Wales financial performance of the broadacre, dairy and vegetable industries.

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Regional overview

The Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region of New South Wales is located north of Sydney and north-west of Newcastle, encompassing the hinterland area of the Hunter River. The region comprises the six local government areas of Cessnock, Dungog, Maitland, Muswellbrook, Port Stephens, and Upper Hunter Shire, and most of Singleton and a part of the Mid-Coast local government area. The region covers a total area of around 21,450 square kilometres or 3 per cent of New South Wales and is home to approximately 272,500 people (ABS 2018).

Agricultural land in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region occupies 14,100 square kilometres, or 66 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 5,800 square kilometres, or 27 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing modified pastures, which occupies 7,700 square kilometres or 36 per cent of the region (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) 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

Employment

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the May 2020 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 135,400 people were employed in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region. The region accounts for 3 per cent of total employment in New South Wales and 4 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 19,700 people, followed by construction with 14,600 people, and retail trade with 14,400 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were accommodation and food services; public administration and safety; and mining. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 3,000 people, representing 2 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region, May 2020
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Note: Annual average of the preceding 4 quarters.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, cat. no. 6291.0, Labour Force, Australia 2020

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2018–19, the gross value of agricultural production in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region was $310 million, which was 3 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in New South Wales ($11.7 billion).

The Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region has a diverse agricultural sector. The most important commodities in the region based on the gross value of agricultural production were cattle and calves ($135 million), followed by milk ($60 million) and poultry ($42 million). These commodities together contributed 77 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region.

Value of agricultural production, Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region, 2018–19
Shows the gross value of agricultural production in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) 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 2020

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2017–18 there were 864 farms in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The region contains 4 per cent of all farm businesses in New South Wales.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region, 2017–18
Industry classification Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region New South Wales
Number of farms % of Region Number of farms Contribution of region to state total %
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised) 483 55.9  6,250 7.7
Dairy Cattle Farming 115 13.3 691 16.7
Horse Farming 68 7.9 540 12.6
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming 45 5.2 2,644 1.7
Grape Growing 38 4.4 404 9.4
Poultry Farming (Meat) 29 3.4 212 13.8
Beef Cattle Feedlots (Specialised) 25 2.9 121 20.9
Poultry Farming (Eggs) 14 1.7 107 13.5
Other Grain Growing 9 1.0 2,230 0.4
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing 9 1.0 538 1.6
Other 29 3.4 9,576 0.3
Total agriculture 864 100 23,314 4

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 2019

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (483 farms) were the most common, accounting for 56 per cent of all farms in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region, and 8 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 44 per cent of farms in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 10 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2017–18. In comparison, 9 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 49 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region in 2017–18.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region, 2017–18
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Note: Only farms with an EVAO of $50,000 or more in 2017–18 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 2019

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 Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region includes Port Stephens and Nelson Bay, which are important home ports for state fisheries and key recreational fishing centres in New South Wales. The New South Wales fisheries active in the area include the Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery – operating in the Hunter River system – the Ocean Prawn Trawl Fishery, and the Ocean Trap and Line Fishery. The Commonwealth fisheries active offshore include the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery and the Gillnet, Hook and Trap.

In 2018–19, –Commonwealth fisheries landed over 485 tonnes in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region, including 233 tonnes of Yellowfin Tuna, 84 tonnes of Swordfish, 39 tonnes of Albacore, 25 tonnes of Striped Marlin and 24 tonnes of Bigeye Tuna. Other important species landed in the region from both commonwealth and state fisheries include: School and King Prawns, Yellowfin Bream, Sea Mullet, Dusky Flathead, Silver Trevally, Tiger Flathead, Southern Calamari and School Whiting.

Aquaculture production in the region is primarily focused on Oysters and Barramundi. Sydney Rock Oyster is the principal aquaculture species, accounting for 67% of the value all aquaculture species grown in New South Wales, with a value of $53.6 million in 2018–19 (Gippel, 2020). The Port Stephens Estuary is estimated to have produced around 997,137 dozen Sydney rock oysters in 2018–19, valued at $9.2 million. The Brisbane Water Estuary, also in the region, produced 157,597 dozen Sydney Rock Oysters in 2018–19, valued at $1.2 million (Gippel, 2020). Port Stephens is also a popular site for sport fishing and game fishing, targeting large pelagic species such as Tunas and Marlin. It was estimated that tournament participants contributed around $20 million per year to the Port Stephens economy (Ward et al 2012). Other common recreational species targeted in the Hunter area include Breams, Prawns, Sand Whiting, Dusky Flathead, Trumpeter Whiting and Sand Flathead (West et al 2015).

New South Wales state data

In 2017–18 the gross value product (GVP) of New South Wales fisheries production was $170.2 million, increasing by 11% ($16.3 million) from 2016–17. New South Wales contributed 5% of the total gross value of Australian fisheries production in 2017–18. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 58.5% ($99.5 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 41.5% ($70.7 million).

New South Wales wild-catch fishery production increased by 11% ($10.2 million) to $99.5 million in 2017–18. Finfish species contributed 46% of the total New South Wales wild-catch production, valued at $45.6 million, while Crustaceans contributed 44% to the total production. The most valuable Finfish species landed were Sea Mullet ($10.2 million), Eastern School Whiting ($5 million) and Black and Yellowfin Bream ($3.2 million). Prawns contributed 20% of the total value of wild-catch fisheries with a value of $19.6 million, while Eastern Rock Lobster contributed $11.6 million and Crabs $8.4 million. Abalone GVP increased by 50% to $5.5 million from 2016–17, despite an 11% decline in catch volume. The increase in wild-catch Abalone GVP was driven by a unit price increase due to growing demand from China.

In 2017–18 the value of New South Wales aquaculture production increased by 9% ($6.1 million) to $70.7 million. Oysters production (largely Sydney Rock Oysters) made the greatest contribution to New South Wales aquaculture production, increasing by 14% to $51.8 million – the highest value since 2003–04. Prawns ($5.8 million) and Finfish aquaculture species, including Silver Perch ($2.8 million), Trouts ($2.7 million) and Barramundi ($0.7 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 Tunas) and the Commonwealth trawl sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark fishery. The Southern Squid Jig Fishery also operates in the waters of New South Wales.

In 2018–19, New South Wales fisheries product exports were valued at $28.8 million. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen Finfish, Tropical Rock Lobsters, and Abalone. Japan and China are the major destinations for New South Wales fisheries exports, accounting for 44% and 18% of the total value of exports in 2018–19, respectively. Other major export destinations include United States of America (14%) and Vietnam (8%).

The New South Wales coastline is an important recreational fishing area, with a multitude of inlets and estuaries from which to fish. There are also a range of game fishing tournaments throughout the year, including in the Bermagui and Port Stephens areas, targeting Tunas and Marlin species. New South Wales also contains several 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, Blue Swimmer Crab, Squids, and Southern Calamari (Steffe & Murphy 2011).

Note: Where applicable the Australian Fish Names Standard AS SSA 5300-2019 is now used in this section. In this section standard fish names for groups of species or species families are not capitalised and employ the use of initial capital letters.

Forestry sector

In 2014–15 the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region was about 2,900 hectares, comprised of 2,840 hectares of hardwood plantations and less than 100 hectares of softwood plantations. The main hardwood plantation species in New South Wales are Dunns white gum (Eucalyptus dunnii), blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) and shining gum (Eucalyptus nitens). The main softwood plantation species in New South Wales are radiata pine (Pinus radiata) and other pine species (various).

In 2016 there were about 1.1 million hectares of native forests in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region, comprised mainly of Eucalypt Medium Open (542,100 hectares), Eucalypt Tall Open (175,900 hectares) and Other native forest (172,500 hectares). The majority of the native forests were privately managed (559,000 hectares), while 425,700 hectares were in conservation reserves and 78,100 hectares were on multiple use public forest available for timber production.

New South Wales state data

In 2017–18, the total plantation area in New South Wales was 393,200 hectares, comprised of 87,100 hectares of hardwood plantations and 306,000 hectares of softwood plantations.

In 2016, New South Wales had 85 sawmills (including 17 softwood sawmills), 2 post and pole processors, 7 wood based panel processors and 5 paper and paperboard processors.

In 2016, there were 19.9 million hectares of native forests in New South Wales, comprised mainly of Eucalypt Medium Woodland (6.0 million hectares), Eucalypt Medium Open (4.7 million hectares) and Eucalypt Tall Open (2.3 million hectares).

In 2017–18, the volume of native hardwood logs harvested in New South Wales was 977,000 cubic metres, valued at $128.5 million. The volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested in New South Wales was 254,000 cubic metres, valued at $21.9 million. The volume of plantation softwood logs harvested in New South Wales was 5.0 million cubic metres, valued at $393.5 million.

In 2017–18, the estimated sales and service income generated from the sale of wood products in New South Wales was $4.7 billion and for paper and paper products was $4.0 billion.

In 2016, the New South Wales forestry sector employed 16,396 workers (0.52 per cent of the total employed workforce in New South Wales) compared with 21,082 (0.62 per cent) in 2011. The number of people employed includes the following categories: forestry and logging, forestry support services, wood product manufacturing and pulp, paper and converted paper product manufacturing.

References

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

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

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

ABS 2020a, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, May 2020, cat. no. 6291.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 30 June 2020.

ABS 2020b, Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia, 2018-19, cat. no. 7503.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 29 May 2020.

Gippel, E 2020, Aquaculture production report 2018–2019 (PDF 1.86 MB), NSW Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales.

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.

Ward, P, et al. 2012, A socioeconomic evaluation of three eastern Australian game-fishing regions (PDF 4.36 MB), ABARES report for the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.

West et al. 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013/14 (PDF 3.8 MB), NSW Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales.

Last reviewed: 22 July 2020
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