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.
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 21,492 square kilometres or 2.68 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 14,116 square kilometres, or 66 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 5,871 square kilometres, or 27 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing modified pastures, which occupies 7,673 square kilometres or 36 per cent of the region.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the November 2018 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 134,500 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 6 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 19,300 people, followed by mining with 16,600 people, and construction with 13,300 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were manufacturing; retail trade; and education and training. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 4,200 people, representing 3 per cent of the region's workforce.
Value of agricultural production
In 2016–17, the gross value of agricultural production in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region was $398 million, which was 3 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in New South Wales ($14.5 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 ($169 million), followed by poultry ($104 million) and milk ($43 million). These commodities together contributed 79 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region.
Number and type of farms
ABS data indicate that in 2016–17 there were 1,166 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, 2016–17
|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)|| 645||55.4|| 6,968||9.3|
|Horse Farming|| 125||10.7|| 779||16.1|
|Dairy Cattle Farming|| 94||8.0|| 902||10.4|
|Poultry Farming (Meat)|| 58||5.0|| 307||18.9|
|Grape Growing|| 50||4.3|| 456||11.0|
|Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming|| 43||3.7|| 2,500||1.7|
|Sheep Farming (Specialised)|| 34||2.9|| 2,821||1.2|
|Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming|| 26||2.2|| 3,579||0.7|
|Beef Cattle Feedlots (Specialised)|| 24||2.1|| 111||22.0|
|Other|| 66||5.6|| 7,601||0.9|
|Total agriculture|| 1,166 ||100|| 26,024 ||4.5|
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 (645 farms) were the most common, accounting for 55 per cent of all farms in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region, and 9 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 51 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 11 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2016–17. In comparison, 9 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 54 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region in 2016–17.
Farm financial performance
Estimates of financial performance are available for all broadacre, beef, sheep, grains, dairy and vegetable farms in
New South Wales.
The Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) region includes Port Stephens and Nelson Bay, which are important home ports for state fisheries and also key recreational fishing centres in New South Wales, including for game fishing activities. The New South Wales fisheries operating 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. A range of species are landed in the area from these fisheries including: school and king prawns, yellowfin bream, sea mullet, dusky flathead, silver trevally, tiger flathead, southern calamari, and school whiting. A key Commonwealth fishery that operates in the region is the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery that targets tuna and billfish, although the area is only a minor landing area for the fishery.
The region is also popular for recreational fishing, with Port Stephens being a popular site for sport fishing and game fishing, targeting large pelagic species such as tuna 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 include bream, flathead, mulloway, whiting, marlin, cobia, and sharks.
Aquaculture production in the region is primarily oysters and barramundi. Sydney rock oyster is the principal aquaculture species grown in NSW, accounting for 58 per cent of the value all aquaculture species grown in NSW, with a value of $40.7 million in 2016–17 (Trenaman et al 2015). The Port Stephens Estuary is estimated to have produced around 815,346 dozen Sydney rock oysters in 2016–17, valued at $6.63 million. The Brisbane Water Estuary, also in the region, produced 155,726 dozen Sydney rock oysters in 2016–17, valued at $1.1 million.
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).
ABS 2018, Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2017, cat. no. 3235.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 10 January 2019.
NSW Department of Primary Industries, A 2018,
Aquaculture production report 2016–2017, 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, Mazur, K, Stenekes, N, Kancans, R, Curtotti, R, Summerson, R, Gibbs, C, Marton, N, Moore, A & Roach, J 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.