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 22,526 square kilometres or 32.9 per cent of Tasmania's total area and is home to approximately 109,200 people (ABS 2011).
Agricultural land in the West and North West region occupies 3,640 square kilometres, or 16 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 13,650 square kilometres, or 61 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is nature conservation, which occupies 7,140 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).
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the May 2017 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 52,700 people were employed in the West and North West region. The West and North West region accounts for 22 per cent of total employment in Tasmania and 30 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 7,300 people, followed by retail trade with 6,500 people, and manufacturing with 5,700 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were construction, accommodation and food services, and agriculture, forestry and fishing. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 3,900 people, representing 7 per cent of the region's workforce.
Value of agricultural production
In 2015–16, the gross value of agricultural production in the West and North West region was $567 million, which was 38 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Tasmania ($1.5 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 ($225 million), followed by cattle and calves ($146 million) and potatoes ($40 million). These commodities together contributed 72 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 1,149 farms in the West and North West region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more. The region contains 36 per cent of all farm businesses in Tasmania.
Number of farms, by industry classification, West and North West region, 2014–15
West and North West region
Number of farms
% of Region
Number of farms
Contribution of region
to state total
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)
Dairy Cattle Farming
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)
Other Grain Growing
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming
Sheep Farming (Specialised)
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 2016
Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (543 farms) were the most common, accounting for 47 per cent of all farms in the West and North West region, and 45 per cent of all sheep 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 40 per cent of farms in the West and North West region had an EVAO of less than $50,000. These farms accounted for only 2 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 17 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $500,000 and accounted for an estimated 72 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the West and North West region in 2014–15.
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 rocklobster, abalone and scallop, and finfish. Most of the Tasmanian rocklobster 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 rocklobster.
In 2014–15 the gross value of Tasmanian fisheries production is estimated to be around $825 million, an increase of 12 per cent ($89 million) from 2013–14. Tasmania contributed 30 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2014–15. In value terms, the wild–catch sector accounted for 21 per cent ($175.3 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 79 per cent ($650 million).
Tasmania's wild–catch fisheries sector is dominated by two main products, abalone and southern rock lobster, which account for 46 per cent and 51 per cent, respectively, of the total value of wild-caught production in 2014–15. Over the past decade the real value of Tasmania's wild–caught fisheries products has reduced by 19 per cent to $175.3 million 2014–15. 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 43 per cent to $80 million in 2014–15. 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 25 per cent and 51 per cent of the total volume and value, respectively, of wild–catch production in 2014–15. The value of Southern rock lobster exports increased by 7 per cent in 2014–15, primarily reflecting a 14 per cent increase in the export unit price from Tasmania.
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 $559 million in 2013–14, representing around 76 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 2010–11, the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the West and North West region was approximately 110,000 hectares, comprised of approximately 89,300 hectares of hardwood plantations, 19,100 hectares of softwood plantations and 1,600 hectares of other 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 2011, there were approximately 1.1 million hectares of native forests in the West and North West region, comprised mainly of Rainforest (505,500 hectares), Eucalypt tall open (265,600 hectares) and Eucalypt medium woodland (160,500 hectares) forest types. The majority of the native forests are in nature conservation reserves (601,900 hectares) and approximately 326,900 hectares are multiple-use public forest available for timber production. Major timber processing industries are located in Burnie, Hampshire and Smithton.
In 2013–14, the total plantation area in Tasmania was approximately 310,700 hectares, comprised of approximately 235,600 hectares of hardwood plantations and 75,100 hectares of softwood plantations. The main hardwood species planted are blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and shining gum (Eucalyptus nitens), and the main softwood species planted is radiata pine (Pinus radiata).
In 2014–15, the volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 1.3 million cubic metres valued at $95 million. The volume of native hardwood logs harvested was 1.1 million cubic metres valued at $73 million. The volume of softwood harvested was 1.1 million cubic metres valued at $63 million.
Sales and service income in the Tasmanian wood product industry was estimated at approximately $335 million in 2013–14.
In 2011, the Tasmanian forestry sector employed 3,526 workers (1.7 per cent of the total employed workforce in Tasmania) compared with 5,390 (2.7 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.
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.