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 Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region and the recent New South Wales financial performance of the broadacre, dairy, vegetable, and sugarcane industries.
The Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region of New South Wales is located in the south–east of the state, along the coast and the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range. The region includes the major regional centres of Bowral and Nowra and encompasses most of the Shoalhaven and Wingecarribee local government areas, and a small part of the Kiama local government area. The region covers a total area of around 6,704 square kilometres or less than 1 per cent of New South Wales and is home to approximately 137,000 people (ABS 2011).
Agricultural land in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region occupies 2,509 square kilometres, or 38 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 3,216 square kilometres, or 48 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is Nature Conservation, which occupies 2,801 square kilometres or 42 per cent of the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the February 2017 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 54,400 people were employed in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region. The region accounts for 1 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 9,900 people, followed by construction with 7,500 people, and education and training with 6,300 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were retail trade, accommodation and food services, and administrative and support services. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 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 Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region was $114 million, which was 1 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in New South Wales ($12.1 billion).
The Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region has a diverse agricultural sector. The most important commodities in the region based on the gross value of agricultural production were milk ($63 million), followed by cattle and calves ($35 million) and cut flowers ($2 million). These commodities together contributed 88 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 805 farms in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more. The region contains 2 per cent of all farm businesses in New South Wales.
Number of farms, by industry classification, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region, 2014–15
Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region
New South Wales
Number of farms
% of Region
Number of farms
Contribution of region to state total %
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)
Dairy Cattle Farming
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef 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 (459 farms) were the most common, accounting for 57 per cent of all farms in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region, and 4 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 70 per cent of farms in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region had an EVAO of less than $50,000. These farms accounted for only 15 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 3 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $500,000 and accounted for an estimated 42 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven 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 coastline of the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven extends northwards from Kioloa State Forrest, north of Batemans Bay, to Shoalhaven Heads. The key fishing port in the area is Ulladulla, a key centre for commercial fishing, processing and marketing of fish. Landings at Ulladulla include blue–eye trevalla, yellowtail kingfish, tiger flathead, silver trevally, snapper, and abalone. State Fisheries operating in the area include the fish trawling sector targeting silver trevally, tiger flathead, southern calamari, school whiting, and a number of shark and ray species. It is also a port for the Commonwealth Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (mainly supplying export markets with tuna). Recreational fishing is also a popular activity for both residents in the area and tourists.
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).
In 2010–11, the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region was approximately 3,300 hectares, comprised almost completely of softwood plantations. The main softwood species planted is radiata pine (Pinus radiata).
In 2011, there were approximately 517,500 hectares of native forests in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland (258,300 hectares), Eucalypt medium open forest (64,300 hectares), Eucalypt tall open forest (33,400 hectares) and Casuarina (29,000 hectares) forest types.
Approximately 271,700 hectares of native forests are in nature conservation reserves, 181,100 hectares are privately owned, 7,800 hectares are leasehold forest, and 55,800 hectares are multiple-use public forest available for timber production. The main native forest industry is in the south of the region. Major timber processing facilities are located at Moss Vale and Nowra.
In 2013–14, the total plantation area in New South Wales was approximately 390,000 hectares, comprised of approximately 90,600 hectares of hardwood plantations, 296,700 hectares of softwood plantations and 2,700 hectares of other plantations. The main hardwood species planted are Dunn's white gum (Eucalyptus dunnii), blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis), flooded gum (Eucalyptus grandis), and Sydney blue gum (Eucalyptus saligna). The main softwood species planted are radiata pine (Pinus radiata), slash pine (Pinus elliottii), and Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea).
In 2014–15, the volume of native hardwood logs harvested was 924,000 cubic metres valued at $115 million. The volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 57,000 cubic metres valued at $6 million. The volume of softwood harvested was 4.6 million cubic metres valued at $347 million. These values include both New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
Total sales and service income in the New South Wales forest and wood product industry was estimated at approximately $7.2 billion in 2013–14. The income was generated from the sale of wood products estimated at approximately $3.4 billion, and the remaining $3.9 billion was generated from the sale of paper and paper products.
In 2011, the New South Wales forestry sector employed 22,247 workers (0.7 per cent of the total employed workforce in New South Wales) compared with 25,243 (0.9 per cent) in 2006. The number of people employed includes forestry support services and timber wholesaling.
ABS 2011, Census of Population and Housing, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.
NSWDPI (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.