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, vegetable, and sugarcane industries.
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 1,539 square kilometres or less than 1 per cent of New South Wales and is home to approximately 276,000 people (ABS 2011).
Agricultural land in the Illawarra region occupies 474 square kilometres, or 31 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 862 square kilometres, or 57 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is minimal use, which occupies 515 square kilometres or 34 per cent of the Illawarra region.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the February 2017 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 144,900 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 22,700 people, followed by retail trade with 17,200 people, and education and training with 16,700 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were construction, accommodation and food services, and manufacturing. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed less than 200 people, representing less than 1 per cent of the region's workforce.
Value of agricultural production
In 2014–15, the gross value of agricultural production in the Illawarra region was $25 million, which was 0.2 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in New South Wales ($12.1 billion).
The Illawarra region has a diverse agricultural sector. The most important commodities in the region based on the gross value of agricultural production were milk ($19 million), followed by cattle and calves ($6 million) and hay (cut) ($0.6 million). These commodities together contributed 99.7 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region.
Number and type of farms
ABS data indicate that in 2014–15 there were 146 farms in the Illawarra region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 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, 2014–15
New South Wales
Number of farms
% of Region
Number of farms
Contribution of region to state total %
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)
Dairy Cattle Farming
Note: Estimated value of agricultural operations $5,000 or more. Industries that constitute less than 1 per cent of the region's industry are not shown
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics
Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (60 farms) were the most common, accounting for 41 per cent of all farms in the Illawarra region, and 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 71 per cent of farms in the Illawarra region had an EVAO of less than $50,000. These farms accounted for only 11 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 6 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $500,000 and accounted for an estimated 50 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Illawarra region in 2014–15.
Farm financial performance
Estimates of financial performance are available for all broadacre, beef, sheep, grains, dairy, vegetable, and sugarcane farms in
New South Wales.
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 2014–15 the gross value of New South Wales fisheries production was estimated to be around $147 million, increasing by 2 per cent ($2 million) from 2012314. New South Wales contributed 5 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2014–15. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 59 per cent ($87 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 41 per cent ($61 million).
New South Wales wild-catch fisheries provide a range of fisheries products. In 2014–15, finfish species contributed 46 per cent of the wild-catch production, valued at $40 million. The main finfish species landed were sea mullet, with a gross value of production of $8.0 million, followed by black and yellowfin bream ($3.5 million), school whiting ($2.6 million), snapper ($1.7 million), and sand whiting ($1.6 million). Prawns contributed 22 per cent of the total value of wild-catch fisheries with a value of $19.3 million, with other important crustacean groups being eastern rocklobster (13 per cent; $11.4 million), and crabs (9 per cent; $7.6 million).
In 2014–15 the value of New South Wales aquaculture production is estimated to have increased by 14 per cent ($7.3 million) to $61 million. Oyster production makes the greatest contribution to New South Wales aquaculture production, accounting for 67 per cent of production by value, worth $40.6 million. Prawns ($5.1 million) and finfish aquaculture species, including silver perch ($3 million), trout ($2.8 million), and barramundi ($0.9 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 2014–15, New South Wales fisheries product exports were valued at $18.6 million. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen fish, rocklobster, and abalone. Japan and New Zealand, are the major destinations for New South Wales fisheries exports, accounting for 33 per cent and 15 per cent of the total value of exports in 2014–15, respectively. Other major export destinations include Taiwan (14 per cent), Vietnam (12 per cent), and Italy (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 (NSWDPI 2013). 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 2011, Census of Population and Housing, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.
NSW DPI (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries) 2013, Fishing Guides, NSW Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales.
Steffe, AS, & Murphy, JJ, 2011, Recreational fishing surveys in the Greater Sydney Region, NSW Fisheries final report series no.131, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre of Excellence, Cronulla, New South Wales.