The Central West and Orana’s broad range of industries, its location and connections to Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle provide a foundation for a diverse regional economy.
While traditionally anchored in agriculture, manufacturing and mining, the region’s health, education and tourism sectors present new opportunities for economic growth.
Opportunities are also emerging in food production and packaging, aged care and related services, renewable energy and niche tourism. Growth across this range of sectors will be carefully managed and planned to provide greater land use compatibility.
Proximity to Sydney, Newcastle, Port Kembla and Canberra and their respective international gateways, along with the north–south access to Brisbane and Melbourne on the Newell Highway, will stimulate growth through servicing national and international markets. The ability to export produce through Canberra Airport, along with opportunities associated with the new Western Sydney Airport, will be a game changer for agricultural exports from the Central West and Orana.1
Increasing connectivity will enable the region to meet growing demand from Asia for exports of agriculture, minerals and tourism. This will coincide with demand from a growing Greater Sydney, despite the access constraints of the Blue Mountains.
New technologies in health, agriculture and online education, and improvements in telecommunications, will benefit the agribusiness, education and health sectors. These shifts require coordinated, long-term planning and investment to maximise regional productivity.
A stronger, more diverse economy will facilitate the planning and commitment to care for the environment and improve sustainability.
Agricultural production occurs from the vast plains of the Orana in the north and west to the sub-alpine areas of the Central West in the east.
Ranging from intensive and irrigated crops – including vegetables, fodder, stone fruits, grapes and cotton – to extensive broadacre cropping, meat and wool production, and forestry.
Highly productive agriculture requires ready access to water, high quality soils and suitable climates. While the total area of land available for agriculture is large, comparatively few locations have access to all these characteristics.
Important agricultural land needs to be identified and protected and a critical mass of agricultural industries maintained to capitalise on demand, increase productivity and employment, and ensure fresh food is available locally.
The NSW Government’s 2014 Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land mapping identifies agricultural land in the region that is significant to the State (see Figure 4). There is an opportunity to complement this mapping with regional-scale mapping that reflects regional climatic and geological conditions, as well as regional industry needs.
A regional agricultural development strategy will identify and map the region’s important agricultural land. It will identify emerging opportunities for agriculture, and guide and direct local planning for the region and NSW. Mapping will incorporate biophysical, infrastructure and socio-economic factors.
Co-location of incompatible land uses with important agricultural land should be minimised.
These can inhibit agricultural production, affect productivity or fragment agricultural land. They also put pressure on agriculture producers who are trying to achieve the economies of scale that will minimise costs across their supply chains.
Biosecurity will remain an important consideration for agricultural areas, as it contributes to the wellbeing and prosperity of the region and, more broadly, the nation. The NSW Government’s NSW Biosecurity Strategy 2013-2021 highlights measures to avoid the negative impacts of pests, diseases and weeds. It will inform ongoing risk assessments – which will consider biosecurity plans – and lead to the application of appropriate buffer areas.
1.1 Release a regional agricultural development strategy that:
1.2 Protect important agricultural land from land use conflict and fragmentation, and manage the interface between important agricultural lands and other land uses.
1.3 Implement the NSW Government’s Agriculture Industry Action Plan - Primed for growth: Investing locally, connecting globally.
1.4 Undertake biosecurity risk assessments, taking into account biosecurity plans and the need for appropriate buffer areas.
Agribusiness sustains the local economies of many communities. The Central West and Orana earns around $1.3 billion from quality wine, beef, wool, vegetables, cotton, wheat, fruit and timber. This represents 18% of all agricultural production in NSW annually.2
Diversification has helped to expand agricultural activities, businesses and industries, making agribusiness one of the most important economic sectors. The agribusiness sector will grow with better recognition, protection and expansion of the agricultural supply chain. For example, industries such as the timber industry in Oberon have diversified into value add of forestry products.
Supply chains begin on farms and can extend beyond regional and State borders to national and global export markets. They include key transport infrastructure and facilities, such as silos, abattoirs and saleyards; supporting secondary processing facilities; and transport and logistics industries. For example, the Central Tablelands,Central West and Dubbo Regional livestock exchanges are critical to elements of the livestock industry supply chain.
Future planning to enable industry growth must respond to emerging opportunities. To do this, the planning system must formally recognise the importance of agricultural land, provide direction on land management, consider the effects of climate change, and guide councils when they are preparing local land use strategies.
Reliable telecommunications are critical to encouraging innovative farming that can increase productivity and tap into new markets. Digital technology allows consumers to trace food from farm to market and also facilitates more effective biosecurity measures.3
Bogan, Narromine and Warren local government areas, and the towns in the irrigation areas of Lachlan, Forbes, Weddin and Cowra local government areas, receive an influx of seasonal workers at harvest time for the cotton, wine, orchard fruit, nuts (hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts) and cherry industries. Goal 4 (Direction 27) addresses accommodation options for these workers.
2.1 Encourage agribusiness diversification and value-adding opportunities by reviewing local plans to ensure land use zoning and definitions reflect industry requirements.
2.2 Guide local and strategic planning to protect agricultural land, and manage the interface with other land uses.
2.3 Facilitate investment in the agricultural supply chain by protecting assets such as freight and logistics facilities from land use conflict and the encroachment of incompatible land uses.
The Central West and Orana is moving to higher valueadded manufacturing and food processing. These industries include organic and free-range production; grain milling; animal product and fibre processing; pet food manufacturing; packaging of raw fruits, vegetables and meats; and the processing of foods such as dairy products.
The region can further capitalise on value-added opportunities in agriculture through biotechnology, digital technology, processing and packaging, branding, and cooperatives.
With the number of manufacturing jobs expected to fall in Australia, the region can compete in specific niche areas where competitive advantages exist. For example, Thales at Lithgow is a specialty manufacturer of defence, aerospace, space, security and transport products for markets in Australia and overseas.4
Value-added manufacturing facilities require significant investment. Councils should minimise land use conflict and enable value-added manufacturing industries to locate where they can access the regional freight network, utility infrastructure, skilled labour and export markets.
The co-location of related industries will maximise efficiency and infrastructure use, decrease supply chain costs, increase economies of scale and attract further investment.
Fletcher International Exports employs around 650 people in Dubbo and exports at least 90 per cent of its lamb and sheep meat products to more than 90 countries in Europe, America, the Middle East and Asia.
Its supply chain includes an abattoir, grain receival facilities and an intermodal rail terminal that service the containerised transport of agricultural commodities, mining commodities and sheep meat products from Dubbo to Port Botany.
Agricultural sectors are moving away from commodity-based marketing and into value-based marketing to ensure long-term profitability and sustainability. MSM Milling is a commodity-based business that is growing its value-added offering by diversifying into research and development, packaging and processing, vegetable oils and stock feed.5
Maverick Biosciences in Dubbo processes animal-derived biological materials. It supplies these to manufacturers of human and veterinary pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, nutraceuticals, medical products and cosmetics. Products are exported to more than 15 countries via air freight.6
Employing a world-first technology known as destructive distillation, a processing plant in Warren recycles car and truck tyres into oil, carbon and steel. The plant processes 19,000 tonnes per year, around three per cent of the end-of-life tyres generated annually in Australia.7
3.1 Promote investment in advanced and value-added manufacturing in employment lands through suitable land use zonings and land use definitions in local environmental plans.
3.2 Locate advanced and value-added manufacturing industries and associated infrastructure to minimise potential land use conflict.
3.3 Encourage co-location of related advanced and value-added manufacturing industries to maximise efficiency and infrastructure use, decrease supply chain costs, increase economies of scale and attract further investment.
3.4 Develop a food and fibre strategy for the Central West, reflecting the opportunities identified in Regional Development Australia Central West’s Value Adding to Agriculture in Central West NSW study.
The region will market its urban, rural and natural areas to international tourists, particularly from Asia, and domestic visitors from Newcastle, Canberra and Sydney.
Significant environmental tourism assets include the Blue Mountains, the Warrumbungle National Park (Australia’s only Dark Sky Park), Jenolan Caves in Oberon, Wellington Caves and the Macquarie Marshes. These must be protected, enhanced and promoted to sustainably increase visitor numbers.
Promoting eco-tourism, conference and sports tourism, agritourism, events and festivals, recreation (including recreational fishing) and Aboriginal cultural and historic heritage will benefit local towns, villages and existing food growers. Particularly as part of attracting off-peak seasonal visitors. Coordinated regional approaches to agritourism and food and wine tourism are already improving the resilience of individual businesses and rural communities.8
Access to international airports in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne will underpin efforts to grow tourist numbers. The Central West Regional Transport Plan (2013) includes actions to improve tourism-related transport services.
The Country and Outback NSW Destination Network will develop and implement a new Destination Management Plan to support emerging tourism opportunities and develop visitor experiences and tourism products.
4.1 Align land use and tourism strategies with a Destination Management Plan for the Country and Outback NSW Destination Network.
4.2 Work with councils to improve tourism-related transport services.
4.3 Develop the region’s capacity to grow food and wine tourism.
4.4 Enable opportunities appropriate for tourism development and associated land uses in local environmental plans.
4.5 Target experiential tourism opportunities and develop tourism management frameworks to promote a variety of accommodation options.
4.6 Encourage tourism development in natural areas that support conservation outcomes.
The ageing population will increase demand for higher-order and specialist medical services and tailored community-based healthcare facilities such as Multi-Purpose Services and e-health initiatives.
There are significant opportunities to develop complementary health services around health facilities in Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst, Mudgee and Parkes. These will broaden the services available, enable business synergies and improve community access to health services.
This is particularly important for hospitals that serve wider communities, such as Dubbo Base Hospital, which is also the primary hospital for the Far West. It provides essential obstetrics services to the Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar and Walgett communities. Short-term accommodation options will allow Far West patients and their families to better access these services.
Similar smaller-scale clustering opportunities can be provided through complementary, flexible and adaptable health services in local service centres that respond to the needs of their local community.
Technology improvements will increase medical connectivity, giving smaller communities more equitable access to services. It will help retain and potentially grow their population and allow older people to stay in their local area.
Sufficient space for cemeteries and crematoria also needs to be provided for communities through future land use planning.
As the Central West and Orana’s economy diversifies and its population changes, there will be demand for skilled labour in resources, energy, health and agribusiness.9 Tertiary education and training, including vocational training, will be crucial to overcome the shortage of skilled workers and meet future workforce demands.
Education and training providers will need to partner with government and the private sector to address regional skills shortages and provide tailored regional training programs. For example, skills shortages in the health sector may be resolved through medical training in established university rural health schools, or through the co-location of health services and teaching and training facilities like the Charles Sturt University dentistry and nursing schools in Dubbo.10
The Orana and Central West Regional Development Australia Committee’s role as a certifying body for the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme will continue to allow employers in regional areas and those operating from centres with low population growth to recruit workers from overseas, or workers currently in Australia on temporary visas.11
Expanding tertiary education services and online access to education will increase access to services and sustain community wellbeing, particularly in smaller and isolated communities.
The NSW Government is committed to delivering better community access to quality vocational education and training through technology improvements to support global competitiveness and innovation.
The Department of Education is reviewing its approach to long-term asset and network planning, including opportunities for partnerships between schools and councils to pool resources and share costs and make the best use of community assets.
6.1 Work with stakeholders and the region’s education providers to identify opportunities to address skills shortages through tailored regional training programs.
6.2 Promote the development of education precincts around universities and other educational facilities to allow people to specialise in rural studies and to cater for international students.
6.3 Facilitate joint-venture opportunities for shared community and school facilities on school sites, including sporting fields, amenities, parking, community halls, child care, arts and library facilities.
OCHRE (Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility and Empowerment) is the NSW Government’s plan for Aboriginal affairs.
It focuses on:
The mineral resources sector underpins many local economies and will continue to drive growth. Mineral resource extraction can benefit and affect communities in different ways during the mining lifecycle. The sustainable management of mineral resources must consider and balance varying impacts to produce long-term economic, social and environmental outcomes.
While mining activities have specific operational needs that can compete with other land uses, they are also temporary and depend on the productive life of the facility or resource. Once extraction sites have been identified, there may be opportunities to identify interim activities that will enable productive use of the land without sterilising the potential of the underlying resource.
Local land use strategies must respond to the lifecycle of mining to give all stakeholders, including investors, certainty around the long-term productive value of land. The Council Of Australian Governments (COAG) Standing Council on Energy and Resources Multiple Land Use Framework includes planning principles in this regard.
Information about the location of current exploration and mining production titles in NSW, explanations of mining and production titles, and the roles of community and government in the decision-making process for mining and resources projects is available at www.commonground.nsw.gov.au.
The NSW Government has introduced a Strategic Release Framework for Coal and Petroleum (including coal seam gas). This reviews and defines which lands may constitute new exploration release areas. New exploration licences will only be issued after an assessment of resource potential; economic, environmental, social factors; and community issues. The Framework is a transparent and informed approach, consistent with the NSW Government’s broader land use resources strategy.
Population and economic fluctuations can occur as mineral and energy resource projects develop or scale down. Some regional communities will need support to diversify and transition their economy as mineral extraction diminishes.
Developing regional-scale scenario plans can enable a better understanding of the benefits that will be distributed across affected communities.
For example, scenario planning can prepare communities and service providers for the impact of mining and reduce the risk of one community being overly disadvantaged compared to another that receives full economic benefits. View the Central West and Orana's mineral and reneable energy map in Direction 9.
Regional mining operations include established coalfields around Lithgow and Mudgee; major gold and copper mines at Cadia near Orange; Northparkes Mines and Tomingley near Parkes; Tritton in Nyngan; and Mineral Hill in Condobolin.
The potential for coal seam gas extraction is concentrated mainly in the Orana around the Pilliga in the Warrumbungle Shire, and in the Gilgandra and Coonamble local government areas. Opportunities for mining rare earths and metals have emerged, mainly in the Dubbo Regional Local Government Area.
8.1 Consult with the Division of Resources and Geosciences when assessing applications for land use changes (strategic land use planning, rezoning and planning proposals) and new development or expansions.
8.2 Protect areas with potential mineral and energy resources extraction through local land use strategies and local environmental plans.
8.3 Protect infrastructure that facilitates mining from development that could affect current or future extraction.
8.4 Support communities that transition out of mining to manage change in population and demand for services, and explore new economic opportunities.
8.5 Work with councils to scope the application and implementation of a scenario planning or impact modelling tool to be applied at a regional level to help communities plan for the impacts of mining.
The region has significant potential for renewable energy industries with vast open spaces and higheraltitude tablelands with potential for wind power generation, large-scale solar energy and bioenergy generation.
Areas in the Central West, including Blayney, Oberon and Wellington, are suitable for wind energy generation, while areas in the Orana, such as Warren, Coonamble and Bogan, are suitable for large-scale solar power and geothermal energy generation.
TransGrid’s NSW Connection Opportunities identifies Parkes and Wellington as having capacity for renewable energy generation. An interactive map of renewable energy potential is available at www.resourcesandenergy.nsw.gov.au.
Biomass (including agricultural, forestry and municipal waste), carbon sequestration and methane from coal mines are emerging energy sources. Waste management facilities could add power generators and harness sewage and landfill gases. Early and effective community engagement will be promoted on these projects.
New renewable energy projects require a strategic approach and should, where possible, incorporate small-scale co-generation measures into their design.
The 250-hectare Nyngan Solar Plant is the largest solar farm in the Southern Hemisphere. It produces 102 megawatts of electricity from approximately 1.36 million solar photovoltaic modules.
The proposed Liverpool Range Wind Farm will sit across four council areas, with 223 turbines in the Warrumbungle Local Government Area. These turbines will produce enough renewable energy to power over 340,000 homes, create over 800 jobs directly and inject $3.9 million into the economy through flow-on effects and multipliers.12
The proposed Orana BioHub in Dubbo will take crop residues, animal waste and potentially organic waste from surrounding council areas and transform them into fertilisers, biochar, specialist manufacturing products, and heat, steam or syngas energy. The $38 million project is expected to generate 30 to 40 skilled jobs.13
Demand for well-located and serviced employment land will be driven by proximity to Sydney and Newcastle, along with the opportunities from freight and logistics activities in Dubbo and Parkes. The diversification of agribusiness and value-added manufacturing will require processing and manufacturing facilities in dedicated industrial estates.
As communities grow and require supporting infrastructure, industrial land must be protected from the encroachment of incompatible activities.
Monitoring the supply and take-up of industrial land will inform infrastructure planning for water, wastewater, electricity, gas and telecommunications.
Regional cities and strategic centres will experience the highest take-up of employment land and will provide higher-order retail and business services for their surrounding areas.
Blayney and Manildra are also likely to experience take-up of industrial land to support the specialised industry clusters linked to manufacturing and value-adding of local produce.
In addition to employment land, efforts to revitalise centres will include the promotion of main street and CBD areas as retail and small business hubs. New retail activity and small business growth should be located in or adjacent to main streets and existing commercial centres to capitalise on existing transport and community infrastructure, enhance public spaces and strengthen the role and function of the area. Any development proposed for land outside existing commercial centres will need to demonstrate the social and economic benefits of such a location.
A sustainable and equitable supply of water is needed to meet the increasing demand from urban, environment and industry uses, and to respond to pressures from a changing climate.
Land use planning can help secure water supplies by appropriately locating, monitoring and managing development. This is especially relevant in the Namoi, Macquarie and Lachlan irrigation areas where significant investments have been made in irrigation networks and water storage.
The Australian Government’s Murray–Darling Basin Plan (2012) sets out regional water use at environmentally sustainable levels by determining long-term ‘average sustainable diversion limits’. These are implemented through water resource plans and long-term watering plans.
Coordinating and managing water requirements across business, industry, communities and the environment requires a better understanding of local water allocations and more resourceful water use. Water allocation is complex due to seasonal fluctuations, and is an ongoing concern for some agricultural producers. More efficient irrigation technologies and non-traditional agricultural pursuits can address water scarcity and climate change.14
11.1 Implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan to ensure a balance of social, economic and environmental outcomes.
11.2 Finalise water resource plans and long-term watering plans for surface water and groundwater systems in accordance with the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.
11.3 Plan for high-water use industries in locations with water access and security.
11.4 Enhance the productive capacity of land in the Namoi, Macquarie and Lachlan irrigation areas by limiting encroachment of inappropriate and incompatible land uses.
11.5 Provide guidance for development in areas of groundwater vulnerability.
Investment in rural and resource industries will underpin the Central West and Orana’s sustainable growth, productivity and prosperity. As this occurs, land use compatibility issues could arise..
The potential for land use conflict increases if new housing encroaches on rural land and resource areas. This can increase management costs and limit the growth of rural and resource industries, especially in closely settled areas around Bathurst and Orange. The expansion of rural and resource industries can also affect established urban activities if not managed appropriately.
Land use planning can provide greater certainty for investment in rural and resources industries by establishing clear parameters and transparent processes to support new development. A consistent planning approach can avoid fragmentation of productive agricultural land and identify suitable locations for new rural residential development. This approach will also limit potential impacts on areas of high environmental value, cultural and heritage assets and areas with rural landscape value. The planned separation of sensitive uses will allow diverse land uses to develop and support each other..
12.1 Conduct a pilot study with Central NSW Councils (CENTROC) to investigate practical on-ground mechanisms to help avoid land use conflict between intensive agricultural uses and other sensitive uses.
12.2 Identify and protect important agricultural land in local plans.
12.3 Create local strategies to limit urban and rural housing development in agricultural and extractive resource areas, industrial areas and transport corridors.
12.4 Amend planning controls to deliver greater certainty of land use.
12.5 Provide non-statutory guidance on appropriate and sympathetic land use in areas where land use conflicts occur.
Page last updated: 16/09/2021