About my region – West and North West Tasmania
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, fisheries, and forestry sectors in the West and North West region and the recent financial performance of the Tasmanian broadacre, dairy and vegetable industries.
The West and North West region of Tasmania is located in the north–west of the state and includes King Island. The region covers the nine local government areas of Burnie, Central Coast, Circular Head, Devonport, Kentish, King Island, Latrobe, Waratah—Wynyard and West Coast, and the major regional centres of Burnie, Devonport, Queenstown and Smithton. The region covers a total area of around 22,400 square kilometres or 33 per cent of Tasmania's total area and is home to approximately 111,300 people (ABS 2018).
Agricultural land in the West and North West region occupies 3,670 square kilometres, or 16 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 13,610 square kilometres, or 61 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is nature conservation, which occupies 7,100 square kilometres or 32 per cent of the West and North West region, followed by production forestry (3,150 square kilometres, 14 per cent of the region) (ABARES 2016).
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the November 2019 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 48,800 people were employed in the West and North West region. The West and North West region accounts for 19 per cent of total employment in Tasmania and 37 per cent of all people employed in the Tasmanian agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.
Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 7,700 people, followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing with 5,700 people, and retail trade with 5,300 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were manufacturing; construction; and accommodation and food services. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector represented 12 per cent of the region's workforce.
Value of agricultural production
In 2017–18, the gross value of agricultural production in the West and North West region was $628 million, which was 39 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Tasmania ($1.6 billion).
The West and North West region has a diverse agricultural sector. The most important commodities in the region based on the gross value of agricultural production were milk ($252 million), followed by cattle and calves ($160 million) and potatoes ($52 million). These commodities together contributed 74 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region.
Number and type of farms
ABS data indicate that in 2017–18 there were 718 farms in the West and North West region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The region contains 36 per cent of all farm businesses in Tasmania.
|Industry classification||West and North West region||Tasmania|
|Number of farms||% of Region||Number of farms||Contribution of region
to state total
|Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)||251||35.0||518||48.5|
|Dairy Cattle Farming||224||31.2||374||59.8|
|Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)||137||19.1||245||55.8|
|Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming||22||3.0||178||12.3|
|Other Crop Growing nec||17||2.3||46||36.0|
|Sheep Farming (Specialised)||15||2.1||313||4.7|
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. nec not elsewhere classified.
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 (251 farms) were the most common, accounting for 35 per cent of all farms in the West and North West region, and 48 per cent of all beef farms in Tasmania.
Estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) is a measure of the value of production from farms and a measure of their business size. Around 29 per cent of farms in the West and North West region had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 4 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2017–18. In comparison, 17 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 57 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the West and North West region in 2017–18.
Farm financial performance
Estimates of financial performance are available for all broadacre, dairy and vegetable farms in Tasmania.
The West and North West region of Tasmania is predominantly a wild–catch production area for shellfish, in particular Southern rock lobster, abalone and scallop, and finfish. Most of the Tasmanian rock lobster production occurs along the south west coast of Tasmania and at King Island. The Tasmanian greenlip abalone population is abundant along the north coast and around the Bass Strait islands. King Island is a large centre for giant crab production. Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout aquaculture occurs mainly in Macquarie harbour.
This region has much less recreational fishing effort than the south east region of Tasmania (Lyle et al. 2009). The most important locations for fishing are on the North Western coast where Australian salmon, flathead and sharks are targeted by line fishing. Lobster pots are commonly used by recreational fishers on the West Coast to target southern rock lobster.
In 2015–16 the gross value of Tasmanian fisheries production is estimated to be around $913 million, an increase of 11 per cent ($879 million) from 2014–15. Tasmania contributed 30 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2015–16. In value terms, the wild–catch sector accounted for 20 per cent ($182.3 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 80 per cent ($730.7 million).
Tasmania's wild–catch fisheries sector is dominated by two main products, abalone and southern rock lobster, which account for 44 per cent and 51 per cent, respectively, of the total value of wild-caught production in 2015–16. Over the past decade the real value of Tasmania's wild–caught fisheries products has reduced by 16 per cent to $182.3 million 2015–16. The decline in value was driven by 61 per cent decline in the total volume of wild–catch fisheries products.
The product for which the real value of production declined most over the past decade is abalone (both wild–caught and aquaculture), falling by 40 per cent to $83 million in 2015–16. This was the result of a 29 per cent reduction in volume. A large proportion of abalone is exported, mostly to Hong Kong, China and Japan. Exchange rate movements have a significant effect on the value of abalone exports and, in turn, production.
Southern rock lobster accounts for a significant proportion of Tasmanian wild–catch production, accounting for 24 per cent and 51 per cent of the total volume and value, respectively, of wild–catch production in 2015–16.
Commonwealth fisheries active in the Tasmania region include the Commonwealth Trawl Sector (main source of domestic fresh fish for Sydney and Melbourne markets) and the Shark Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sector (supplies gummy shark or 'flake' to Melbourne) of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. The Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery and Small Pelagic Fishery (mostly fishmeal for aquaculture and agriculture) also operate in the waters off Tasmania.
The importance of aquaculture in Tasmanian fisheries production increased over the past decade. Over the past decade the real value of aquaculture production tripled reaching $730.7 million in 2015–16, representing around 80 per cent of the state's fisheries production. Most of the growth in aquaculture production is attributed to increases in the output of farmed salmonid species, in particular Atlantic salmon.
In 2015–16, Tasmanian fisheries product exports were valued at $186.9 million. China and Vietnam, are the major destinations for Tasmania fisheries exports, accounting for 35 per cent and 24 per cent of the total value of exports in 2015–16, respectively. Other major export destinations include Hong Kong (20 per cent) and Japan (7 per cent).
Recreational fishing is popular in Tasmania with an estimated 98,000 Tasmanian residents (5 years and over) participating in the activity in the 12 months prior to October 2012 (Lyle, Stark & Tracey 2014). In its survey of recreational fishers in Tasmania found that most fishing effort is directed to South East region (27 per cent). The key species caught by recreational fishers include Flathead, Australian salmon, Trout, Gurnards, Black Bream and Wrasse.
In 2014–15, the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the West and North West region was 106,200 hectares, comprised of 86,700 hectares of hardwood plantations and 19,500 hectares of softwood plantations. The main hardwood species planted are blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and shining gum (E.nitens), and the main softwood species planted is radiata pine (Pinus radiata).
In 2016, there were 1.1 million hectares of native forests in the West and North West region, comprised mainly of rainforest (498,400 hectares), Eucalypt tall open forest (266,000 hectares), Eucalypt medium woodland forest (161,100 hectares) and Eucalypt medium open forest (66,000 hectares). The majority of native forests were in nature conservation reserves (684,600 hectares), while 189,000 hectares were multiple-use public forests and 144,900 hectares were on land classified as other Crown land. Major timber processing industries are located in Burnie, Hampshire and Smithton.
In 2015–16, the total plantation area in Tasmania was 309,800 hectares, comprised of 233,900 hectares of hardwood plantations and 75,900 hectares of softwood plantations.
In 2015–16, the volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested in Tasmania was 2.0 million cubic metres valued at $149 million. The volume of native hardwood logs harvested was 1.1 million cubic metres valued at $78 million. The volume of softwood harvested was 1.1 million cubic metres valued at $66 million.
The sales and service income generated from the sale of wood products in Tasmania was estimated at $389 million in 2015–16. Sales and service income for paper and paper products is not available for 2015–16.
In 2016, the Tasmanian forestry sector employed 2,564 workers (1.2 per cent of the total employed workforce in Tasmania) compared with 3,529 (1.6 per cent) in 2011. The number of people employed includes the following categories: forestry, logging, support services, timber wholesaling; and wood, pulp, paper and converted paper product manufacturing.
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 2019a Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, November 2019, cat. no. 6291.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 15 January 2020.
ABS 2019b Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia, 2017-18, cat. no. 7503.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 15 May 2019.
Lyle, JM, Tracey, SR, Stark, KE & Wotherspoon, S 2009, 2007–08 Survey of Recreational Fishing in Tasmania, University of Tasmania, Hobart, doi: 10.13140/2.1.1905.6006.
Lyle, J.M., Stark, K.E. & Tracey, S.R. 2014, 2012–13 Survey of recreational fishing in Tasmania, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania.
Montreal Process Implementation Group for Australia and National Forest Inventory Steering Committee, 2018, Australia’s State of the Forests Report 2018, ABARES, Canberra, December. CC BY 4.0.