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NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
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Despite its relatively small population, the Far West is a significant regional economy. In 2011, the region generated $2.8 billion in gross regional product.6 This represents 32 per cent more output per person than the average of $44,588 per person in regional NSW. The region’s economy is currently centred on agriculture and mining, which together directly contribute almost 40 per cent of gross regional product.7

 

Mining is the largest contributor to gross regional product ($783 million) and provides 9 per cent of the region’s jobs.8

 

Agriculture is another major contributor to the regional economy and is well placed to help satisfy the growing global demand for food and fibre. As most communities in the region are largely focused around one industry, such as mining or agriculture, they can be more vulnerable to economic downturn. The development of complex global supply chains means the region faces ongoing challenges to make its costs of transportation competitive and its infrastructure efficient enough to maximise its productive capacity.

 

Major development proposals are already under way that would enable the region to produce value-added products or attract value-adding investments close to production sites; for example, food and beverage processing around Wentworth and Walgett and an abattoir in Bourke.

 

A large proportion of products are exported from the region in base commodity form, often for processing elsewhere within NSW or overseas. An opportunity exists to capitalise on this by attracting industries to the region to produce value-added products.

 

Infographics showing economic output per person, and economic contribution, of the far west region in 2011

 

There are other potential value-adding opportunities; for example, through agritourism, which provides an additional revenue stream for farms, or the production of bioenergy and biofuels produced from agriculture and forestry waste.

 

The focus for the future is to support the competitiveness and productivity of the region’s industries by promoting the efficient use of infrastructure and clustering compatible land uses in the right places.

 

Potential Far West projects

There are potential projects for the Far West that would benefit from long-term collaborative planning, infrastructure and servicing, including:

  • the development of renewable energies and associated industries, particularly around Broken Hill, Wentworth and Balranald;
  • the expansion of food and drink manufacturing industries in Wentworth and Balranald;
  • the proposed Bourke abattoir;
  • the potential kangaroo processing facilities in Cobar and Brewarrina; and
  • a proposed BioHub facility in Cobar.

 

Delivering employment opportunities for Aboriginal communities

The Far West’s semi-arid climate has traditionally fostered an agricultural and mining economy; however, emerging industries, such as tourism, are providing more diverse employment opportunities, particularly for Aboriginal communities. With the support of the NSW Government, local training for Aboriginal communities can build the skills necessary to compete for new job opportunities. This will improve employment options and increase opportunities for social participation across the Far West.

 

Infographics showing top five industries by employment and economic contribution in the Far West in 2011

Agriculture in the Far West includes production of meat, cereal, and intensive irrigated crops (vegetables, fodder, horticulture, stone fruits, viticulture and cotton). There are also various agricultural hubs across the region, including wine and table grape production along the Murray River in the south and wool production in the north.

Significant agribusiness opportunities exist in the Far West in the horticultural industries of citrus, flower growing and grapes in irrigated areas, as well as wool production and organic farming of lamb, goats and beef in non-irrigated areas.

Growth in the economies of Asia is driving a forecast 77 per cent increase in food demand by 2050.9 In particular, the growing middle class in Asia is increasing demand for high-end agricultural products such as fruit, high-grade meats, grains and dairy. This presents opportunities for higher-value agricultural and food products from the Far West. 

Advances in innovative technologies, such as automated farm vehicles and equipment, and the application of agricultural robotics for crop intelligence and autonomous farm surveillance, also have the potential to improve farm productivity.10 

While the total area available for agriculture is vast, there are comparatively few districts with high productive capacity and access to surface water, labour, infrastructure, suitable soils and rainfall. The NSW Government will map highly productive, important agricultural land that could be developed for more intensive agriculture through irrigation, to support producers and councils in future growth planning. Protecting important agricultural land will also help to keep fresh food available locally.

The potential for land use conflict across the region’s agricultural lands is high in some areas due to competing demands from mineral and energy resource extraction, and urban encroachment. This can inhibit farming practices and over time affect productivity and economies of scale. It can also contribute to biosecurity risks. 

In contrast to much of NSW, the Far West has the potential to effectively manage biosecurity risks due to its substantial separation from major populations and intensive industries, and the semi-arid climate, which is challenging for exotic animals and plants. The region can also capitalise on its ‘clean and green’ organic farming and marketing advantage. The NSW Government’s commitment to strengthening and maintaining biosecurity measures across NSW is reflected in the NSW Biosecurity Strategy 2013-2021, the NSW Weeds Action Program 2015-2020, and the Draft NSW Invasive Species Plan 2015-22.

The right policy settings have to be in place to provide the agricultural land and a ‘critical mass’ of agri-industries that will encourage investment in agriculture and the agricultural supply chains. This includes investment in key transport infrastructure and facilities such as silos, warehousing, abattoirs and saleyards, and marketing services, rural supplies outlets, secondary processing facilities, and transport and logistics industries. 

 

The management of kangaroo populations presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Fluctuations in kangaroo populations can affect pastures, native vegetation, water resources and the viability of agricultural enterprises. During droughts, there are welfare issues associated with large populations of kangaroos, as well as their impact on the fragile landscape. By contrast, kangaroo meat can provide an alternative protein source for global markets, and supply domestic pet food markets. 

The commercial harvest of wildlife has been widely advocated as a pathway for employment and economic development for Aboriginal people. There are opportunities to utilise local business knowledge, develop programs and offer incentives to encourage new people, particularly Aboriginal people, to enter the industry as professional harvesters. As kangaroos have cultural, social and economic significance for Aboriginal people, they need to be involved in the decision-making about commercial harvesting. A more collaborative approach to kangaroo management is required so that the issues can be managed sustainably. 

Agricultural production in the Far West 2011

Click to enlarge.Map infographic showing the breakdown of agricultural production in the Far West in 2011, split by product and location

Actions

1.1 Map and protect important agricultural land from land use conflict arising from inappropriate and incompatible surrounding land uses, prevent fragmentation and manage the interface between agricultural lands and other land uses.
1.2 Promote agribusiness diversification by reviewing local plans and removing planning barriers.
1.3 Protect the agricultural supply chain from the encroachment of land uses that may cause land use conflicts and impede the growth of agribusiness.
1.4 Promote the sustainable management of kangaroo populations and investigate potential economic opportunities associated with kangaroo meat processing through policy and legislative mechanisms. 
1.5 Minimise biosecurity risks for current and future industries through strategic planning, and by undertaking risk assessments, taking into account biosecurity plans, and applying appropriate buffer areas when assessing the potential impacts of new development.
1.6 Focus urban development outside of existing irrigation areas and areas with the potential for irrigated agriculture.

Identifying and supporting further value-added manufacturing and processing industries throughout the Far West will encourage greater industry diversification and associated job opportunities; build investor confidence; maximise infrastructure and communication networks; and ensure the region’s contribution to satisfying the global demand for goods and services.

Value-adding has historically been inhibited by the distance to ports and markets, lack of infrastructure and skilled labour, and climatic uncertainty. 

While the majority of food and beverage processing occurs outside the region, Wentworth and Balranald are processing table grapes, pistachios and almonds – and there is significant investment in vegetable production due to proximity to Mildura. 

Leveraging recent agricultural free trade agreements should encourage the development of value-adding opportunities in the region and can also capitalise on marketing the origin of agricultural produce from ‘outback NSW’. 

The Regional Development Australia Orana Regional Plan 2013-2016 identified potential opportunities from food and beverage manufacturing in the local government areas of Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar and Walgett, including:

  • the development of large-scale food processing operations, such as meat processing in Bourke and chickpea flour processing in Walgett;
  • low-level value-adding of agricultural products; and 
  • niche and integrated developments.11 

Other opportunities include native and feral animal harvesting and processing in Cobar, Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett, and a BioHub plant (carbon-rich materials are produced from the slow heating of biomass) at Cobar.

Value-adding enterprises need to be strategically located so they are protected from land use conflict and to make the most of the significant investment made in industry development and infrastructure. Co-location of related industries should be encouraged to maximise infrastructure use, decrease supply chain costs, increase economies of scale and attract further investment.  

Value adding: Proposed Bourke abattoir

A state-of-the-art small stock abattoir for the processing of goats and lambs is proposed for north of Bourke to capitalise on growing export demand for these products. Livestock will be principally sourced from the Far West.

The facility will have the capacity to process up to 6,000 head of livestock a day and employ 200 staff when fully operational. It will service customer markets in the Middle East, Asia and North America.

The project represents a significant investment in Bourke, with a capital value of approximately $60 million. 

Actions

2.1 Promote advanced and value-added manufacturing opportunities by reviewing local plans and removing potential barriers to new investment, such as inappropriate zoning or land use permissibility.
2.2 Encourage co-location of related industries, to maximise efficiency and infrastructure use, decrease supply chain costs, increase economies of scale and attract further investment. 
2.3 Protect the investment in advanced and value-added manufacturing industries and associated infrastructure by protecting manufacturing facilities from land use conflict arising from inappropriate and incompatible surrounding land uses.

Over coming decades, the region will continue to benefit from the economic and employment flow-on effects of the mining industry. The degree of benefit will vary across the lifecycle of a development, and can affect communities in different ways. 

Mining is the primary economic driver at Broken Hill (silver, lead and zinc), Cobar (copper and gold), Lightning Ridge (opal) and White Cliffs (opal). Mining of mineral sands occurs within the Broken Hill, Balranald and Wentworth local government areas. There is also the possibility of iron ore, copper, gold and cobalt around Broken Hill, and magnetite and mineral sands near Balranald.

Competing land uses can restrict the ability for the region to take advantage of mineral resources. However, planning can be used to manage this issue.


The NSW Government has several policy and legislative tools to support the sustainable growth of the mining industry, including the: 

  • Mining Act 1992 and Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991;
  • Strategic Release Framework for Coal and Petroleum. This is a mechanism to review and define which lands may constitute new exploration release areas for coal and petroleum. New exploration licences will only be issued in areas released by the Minister for Resources and Energy after an assessment of resource potential and economic, environmental and social factors; 
  • NSW Gas Plan (2014);  
  • State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007; and
  • Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment for Potential Coal and Petroleum Exploration Release Areas Guidelines (2015).

Communities need to be prepared to manage population changes and the economic fluctuations associated with the life cycle of mining operations. In the long-term, in areas where mineral extraction is declining, some regional communities will need to diversify and transition their economies. Rehabilitating former mines can provide an opportunity for a new development or use.

The nature of employment in mining operations (shift work and fly-in fly-out workers) can lead to ongoing changes in the resident populations, and create different demands for retail, health, education and emergency services. 

 

Through the work of the Western NSW Mining and Resource Development Taskforce, the NSW Government is investigating ways that western NSW communities can capitalise on the economic benefits and manage the impacts of the mining sector. The Taskforce is working with councils across the Far West to review the social and economic benefits and impacts of mining on regional communities. It will identify ways to diversify and transition the community and economy in areas where resource and mineral extraction is slowing. Practical guidance and resources will be provided to communities to help them achieve a successful transition.

Actions

3.1 Implement a scenario planning or modelling tool to understand servicing needs and opportunities for communities to better capture the economic benefits of mining, and help communities plan for the implications of mining. 
3.2 Protect areas of mineral and energy resource potential through land use zoning in local plans. 
3.3 Consult the Division of Resources and Energy when assessing applications for land use changes and new developments or expansions, including the Common Ground website 
3.4 Protect infrastructure that facilitates mining industries, such as road and rail freight routes and energy transmission networks, from development that could affect current or future extraction.
3.5 Support communities that are transitioning out of mining operations and help them to plan for new economic opportunities.

Mineral resources and renewable energy map

Click to enlarge.Map showing mineral resources and renewable energy in the Far West region

Mining in Cobar Shire

Cobar Shire has been an important copper, gold, lead, zinc and silver mining district for nearly 140 years.12 

Peak, CSA, Endeavour, Manuka and Hera mines are currently operating in the shire and there is potential for further development in the area, such as the Nymagee Copper mine, Mallee Bull prospect near Gilgunnia, and Mount Boppy near Canbelego. 

Potential exists for further discoveries of gold, copper, silver, lead and zinc in two belts of north-west to south-east trending prospective rocks, referred to as the Cobar–Nymagee PRA and Mount Drouin PRA.

The Far West has excellent solar capability and opportunities for investment in renewable energy, including large-scale wind and solar in Wentworth and Balranald shires where electricity network connections exist.14

Broken Hill has an opportunity to capitalise on the current investment in renewable energy to develop generation and associated secondary industries, including research, project management, installation and asset maintenance. Opportunities exist to co-locate renewable energy generation at resource or industry sites, which can attract other similar industries. Technical and financial electrical grid access issues can be managed for new industries by co-generation.

The benefits that can be realised by supporting this sector in the Far West include:

  • diversifying energy production in the region, providing energy security and managing issues with transmission over distances;
  • locational advantages for supplying other regions and states with energy from the grid;
  • helping to deliver the objectives of the NSW Renewable Energy Action Plan (2013); and 
  • establishing new employment-generating industries; for example, Silverton Wind Farm, which will support an estimated 150 jobs during construction.
The NSW Government is committed to providing a diverse, affordable and clean energy mix for NSW. It is delivering the NSW Renewable Energy Action Plan (2013) to help achieve the national renewable energy target of 33,000 GW hours of renewable energy by 2020. These targets have been a driver of wind and solar proposals across the State, including the existing 53 MW Broken Hill Solar Voltaic Power Project and the Silverton Wind Farm. An interactive map of renewable energy potential is available on the Department of Industry, Resources and Energy website.

Actions

4.1 Identify areas and project sites with renewable energy potential, and infrastructure corridors with access to the electricity network, to inform land use planning.
4.2 Promote best practice community engagement to ensure community benefits are realised for all utility-scale renewable energy projects. 
4.3 Promote smaller-scale renewable energy projects using bioenergy, solar, small-scale hydro, geothermal or other innovative storage technologies.
4.4 Identify research partnerships with universities and renewable energy companies to develop a centre of excellence in renewable energy in the Far West.

Silverton Wind Farm 

The Silverton Wind Farm is located in the Barrier Ranges, 25 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill and has approval for up to 172 turbines and associated infrastructure. Turbines are proposed for the southern part of the Mundi Mundi Range and in the northern part of Mount Robe Range.13 

Improvements in technology may also allow future development of wind infrastructure in areas currently less suited to wind energy generation.

Solar Energy eXchange Initiative

This initiative, established by a group of 31 councils, including all the councils in the Far West and the Unincorporated Area, aims to use Australian Government funding to construct six solar energy projects across inland NSW. 

One project involves the installation of $1 million worth of photovoltaic panels in each council area, with ownership residing with the councils. 

The five other projects involve installing five solar power plants – each costing $20 million to $40 million – capable of supplying most of the electricity for a typical country town. Each project would employ a different solar technology. 

The Solar Energy eXchange Initiative aims to provide demonstration plants for a future solar energy industry in western NSW that would supply electricity to Sydney and Melbourne.
The region has wide-ranging appeal to both domestic and international visitors as it offers an authentic outback experience. Some of the unique features of the region include the Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps, heritage trails, the Louth Races and Gundabooka, Sturt and Mungo national parks.


Domestic visitors to outback NSW have increased in recent years, mainly due to an increase in popularity for camping/driving holidays in the more remote parts of Australia, the growing number of ‘grey nomads’, improved mobility and a general appreciation of the unique landscape.

 

Tourism opportunities that help to extend the length of time that visitors spend in the region need to be further explored. They could include a focus on the region’s organic and native produce, natural landscape and scientific and paleo-archaeological-focused tourism around the region’s Aboriginal heritage. 

Tourism can generate employment and business growth that contributes to better economic outcomes for Aboriginal communities. 

 

The Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2013-2016 supports the development of Aboriginal tourism experiences and businesses that will lead to economic and social benefits for Aboriginal people, both as operators and employees. 

 

Increasing economic participation and development for Aboriginal communities in the Far West can result in better preservation and celebration of Aboriginal heritage and culture. 

The limited transport and access connections, both within and outside the region, appeals to some visitors because it adds to the ‘remote’ experience; however, maintaining and improving transport connections for visitors, managing the seasonal fluctuations in local employment, and a greater investment in attractions will make the region a more popular tourist destination.

Heritage trails

Heritage trails can combine the attraction of significant heritage items with the remote outback experience. A Far West Sculpture Trail encompassing four major sites is being proposed to increase tourism to the Far West.15 Two of the sites, at Broken Hill and Mutawintji, are already in place, and planning is under way for a further two sites at White Cliffs and Wilcannia.

Potential tourism attractions include:

  • developing a sealed, all-weather tourism loop to Lake Mungo, connecting to Mildura and Balranald; 
  • developing a Far West Sculpture Trail;
  • developing a regional tourism trail with associated signage and marketing between Balranald, Wentworth, Mallee Cliffs, Mungo and Yanga floodplains; and between White Cliffs, Menindee, Tibooburra and Silverton;
  • improving management of, and access to, national parks; and
  • promoting Broken Hill City Council’s film studio precinct.

Access to tourism assets

The Murray-Mallee Regional Transport Study 2011 Final Report recommended developing a sealed, all-weather tourist loop road to Mungo National Park, connecting to Mildura and Balranald. Currently, routes into Mungo National Park are via two-wheel-drive accessible unsealed roads, which are heavily affected by wet weather. Roads can be closed on short notice for preservation, affecting the unsealed section of the main entrance to Mungo National Park via Arumpo Road. This can reduce visitor numbers.16

Tourism assets map

Click to enlarge.

Map showing tourism assets in the Far West region

Actions

5.1 Align local land use and tourism strategies with the relevant Destination Management Plan.
5.2 Prepare a tourism growth strategy serving peak and off-peak markets.
5.3 Identify opportunities for tourism and associated land uses in local plans.
5.4 Identify and plan for the access and infrastructure needs of the tourism sector.

Agriculture, tourism and mining all rely on an efficient freight network (road, rail and air) and access to infrastructure. Given the vastness of the region, and the distances to ports and markets, this is a challenge on purely economic grounds.

 

Two of the State’s eight strategic regional corridors cross the region. One connects Mildura and the Wentworth Shire to Wagga Wagga, and the other connects Broken Hill to Dubbo, and then on to Sydney.17 The nationally significant rail corridor between Adelaide and Sydney also passes through the region.18

 

Many of the routes and services used for freight transport are also important for passenger travel by residents, drive-in drive-out employees and tourists.

 

The NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan puts the focus for the region on ensuring that realistic travel options exist. It requires ongoing commitment to investment to maintain and upgrade transport routes. The NSW Government will continue to support coordinated investment in freight, priority road infrastructure and airline services because of their importance to the regional economy.19

 

Historically, infrastructure investment has been provided in a piecemeal way, resulting in ad hoc or misaligned priorities across the region. Infrastructure requirements and investment need to be coordinated to deliver maximum benefit to the economy and the broader regional community.

 

Opportunities exist to collaborate with regional stakeholders to develop a regional economic development strategy, which will identify key enabling infrastructure, investigate policy interventions and provide recommendations to support future economic development of the Far West.

 

Many local roads in the region are unsealed due to the expensive cost of sealing and maintenance. For example, the Central Darling Shire Council has estimated that approximately 93 per cent of the roads within its boundaries remain unsealed or without an all-weather surface. Unsealed roads are generally more vulnerable to closure than sealed roads during weather events, which may cause lengthy detours. There is an increased risk of tourists and residents, as well as drivers of industrial vehicles, having an accident on unsealed roads.

 

Local road connections that feed into the State and national road freight network are important for transporting agricultural produce and mining products.

 

Restrictions on certain freight vehicles using local roads, and the cost of local road maintenance, are significant impediments to the road freight network. The NSW Government acknowledges that these constraints can substantially affect economic productivity.20

 

Identifying and resolving the region’s freight and road pressure points will support the growth of agricultural and mining activities in the region.

 

Transport for NSW administers two coordinated programs aimed at tackling this issue:

  • Fixing Country Rail is a program to remove productivity and efficiency constraints on the regional rail network; and
  • Fixing Country Roads is a program to provide targeted funding to local councils for road projects that will eliminate connectivity constraints on local roads in NSW.

 

Some councils in the region may not have sufficient resources or capacity to prepare detailed business cases to support infrastructure investment, and government and infrastructure agencies will need to work with councils to share skills and expertise. Identifying freight network corridors can help to promote economically valuable land uses nearby. Private investment can be directed at road and rail pressure points, as is occurring in the program commenced by GrainCorp at railway sidings in NSW and Victoria.

 

The rise of autonomous (or driverless) vehicles will have implications for freight transport. Enabling trucks to drive 24 hours a day and conduct deliveries at any time may result in safer, more reliable and lower cost deliveries. Potential adverse impacts associated with job losses as a result of automation will need to be considered.

 

Transport connections map

Click to enlarge

Map of inter-regional transport connections in the Far West region

 

GrainCorp investment in the agricultural supply chain

Private organisations are rationalising grain storage and distribution facilities in the region. GrainCorp has a major investment at Burren Junction (Walgett Local Government Area) for the construction of additional storage facilities and railway sidings. The improvements will reduce shunting, allow for faster train loading and save a projected $6 per tonne in freight costs to port.21 The siding will be lengthened to allow up to 50 wagons and the facilities upgraded so that a train can be loaded in 24 hours. The project responds to the need to supply grain rapidly and to facilitate containerised grain for export to countries that do not have bulk grain handling facilities.

 

Strategic planning for key corridors

Transport for NSW and Roads and Maritime Services will develop a corridor strategy to provide a 20-year plan for the Silver City Highway. The strategy will identify current challenges and future improvements and investment priorities.

 

 

It will also consider heavy vehicle movements around Broken Hill and options to improve urban amenity and connectivity for local residents and commercial uses, as well as mining and agricultural industries around town. The Western Regional Transport Plan identifies support for the Broken Hill heavy vehicle bypass.

 

A commitment of $30.5 million has been made to seal the next stage of the Silver City Highway, between Broken Hill and Tibooburra. Five to 10 kilometres of the road is being sealed per year. High-priority sections are being sealed first and other sections are being gravelled.

 

A commitment of $9.9 million has been allocated to the Cobb Highway which connects Wilcannia and Ivanhoe. Significant areas of this corridor are currently unsealed.

 

Corridor strategies are also being developed for other key roads in the Far West, including the Sturt, Kamilaroi and Mitchell highways, and Kidman Way.

 

Actions

6.1 Work with stakeholders to identify the regional freight network (including key national, State, regional and local roads and the rail network).
6.2 Investigate and prioritise projects to address impediments to the regional freight network to improve capacity and opportunities in the network.
6.3 Identify, coordinate and prioritise the delivery of local and regional road projects forming part of the regional freight network.
6.4 Protect freight and transport corridors from the encroachment of incompatible land uses, and strategically locate freight hubs to support further industry development.
6.5 Implement the Department’s Planning Guideline for Major Infrastructure Corridors (2016).
6.6 Prepare a regional economic development strategy that drives economic growth opportunities by identifying key enabling infrastructure and other policy interventions to unlock growth.

Regional economic growth can be influenced by the extent of available air travel options. Due to the distance from capital cities, air travel is crucial in connecting the region to other areas quickly. For example, Broken Hill is a 90-minute flight from Dubbo compared to an eight hour drive. 


Regular commercial passenger air services operate to and from Broken Hill and Cobar. Some residents of the Far West access regular passenger services that operate from Dubbo, Mildura, Moree and Griffith in adjacent regional areas. Local airports also provide aviation access for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, along with private aircraft services for business, industry and tourism. 

Airport operations need to be protected from the encroachment of incompatible uses through strategic planning and land use zoning in local plans. 

The NSW Legislative Assembly recently conducted the Inquiry into Regional Aviation Services (2014). The Government’s response noted that the Department of Premier and Cabinet had led a feasibility study into expanding commercial air services to remote communities in western NSW, including Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Brewarrina and Bourke.22 The Western Regional Transport Plan (2013) proposed a similar investigation into commercial air services to the western region.23 

The NSW Government supports the allocation of 20 per cent of flight slots into Sydney Airport for regional NSW services, and is aiming for a greater allocation in peak periods. These slots are critical to support regional business and enable access to Sydney. 

Broken Hill Airport

Broken Hill Airport is located about six kilometres south of the central business district and includes the following facilities: Regional Express Airlines, Express Freight, charter companies, general aviation and the Royal Flying Doctor Service base. Regional Express is the only daily operator and links Broken Hill to Sydney, Adelaide, Dubbo and Mildura. 

The airport has considerable strategic value to the region, and its growth as the major inland airport in regional NSW is one of seven long-term goals contained in the Regional Development Australia Far West NSW Regional Plan 2013-2023. It may require improvements to the runway, taxiway and apron areas, to allow for use by larger aircraft.

Actions

7.1 Protect airports and airfields from the encroachment of incompatible development.
7.2 Support the continued allocation of 20 per cent of flight slots at Sydney Airport to regional NSW services and seek a greater allocation in peak periods.

Internet connectivity is critical to the growth and wellbeing of the region from social, community and economic perspectives; however, more than one-third of households in the Far West do not have access to the internet at home.24

 

Far West Regional Development Australia identified a lack of access to high-speed broadband as the overwhelming major barrier to small business development, distance education delivery and growth in the region.25 High-speed internet is universally acknowledged by councils in the region as a key service to facilitate business opportunities.26

 

Better telecommunications and internet can unlock a range of benefits, including the delivery of health, education, tourism and cultural services,27 in addition to providing an essential service to some remote communities during emergencies.

 

Health services are increasingly delivered through telecommunications technology. Emergency room observation and remote doctor video-conferencing narrow the gap in services within the region. Similarly, students rely on being able to access course content online. Growth in these two sectors is heavily dependent on access to reliable telecommunications.

 

Lightning Ridge and Wentworth currently have National Broadband Network access, with Balranald, Bourke, Broken Hill, Cobar and Walgett scheduled for access under current planned roll-outs. Much of the Far West is limited to 3G network coverage, with some 4G services available in the larger centres and smaller townships. The centres in the Unincorporated Area have the least connectivity. The roll-out of the National Broadband Network will be critical for the region, and in the long-term will enable the wider take-up of technology. Over the next 20 years, the Far West could benefit significantly from the use of new technology in freight and passenger transport; for example, through autonomous freight, agricultural and passenger vehicles, as well as in agricultural and mining production. Infrastructure development should not jeopardise the potential use in the future of this technology.

 

Actions

8.1 Identify options to improve access to shared telecommunication and internet services, including public access to services at community centres and schools.
8.2 Establish trial sites for the use of automated freight, agricultural and passenger vehicles with Transport for NSW and other stakeholders.

The availability of water and the security of its supply is critical for the region. Water is a key input for agriculture and mining, as well as for community sustainability. Climate change is already affecting water availability across the region, significantly so in smaller communities and those already vulnerable to water shortages.

 

Broken Hill and Cobar have been given high priority for infrastructure upgrades to improve their water security.28

 

The Barwon and Darling rivers overlay the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest groundwater reservoirs in the world.29 The Barwon–Darling system is one of the longest in the world and connects waters flowing from Queensland through NSW to the Murray River.

 

The irrigation communities of Menindee, Wentworth and Balranald require greater certainty about seasonal water allocations as it allows producers to increase investment and take advantage of global demand for agricultural products.

 

The NSW Government will adopt a coordinated approach to water resource management that provides greater certainty to the Far West by managing environmental, industrial and residential water requirements in consultation with all stakeholders.

 

The NSW Government has developed water sharing plans that set limits on extraction and rules for sharing water sustainably between water users and the environment. The Commonwealth’s Murray–Darling Basin Plan (2012) has set lower extraction limits for surface water that will be implemented through water resource plans to be completed by 2019.30

This presents challenges for the region given the demands for water for business, industry and the environment.

 

The focus for the future is to appropriately locate, monitor and manage development to protect the security of the region’s water supplies.

 

Water resource management relies on the cooperation of three tiers of government. The NSW Government will coordinate water resource management, in consultation with all stakeholders, to increase transparency in decision-making and provide investors with greater security to proceed with projects. 

Water sharing plans

Water sharing plans and water resource plans currently being updated by the Department of Primary Industries set out the rules for sustainable diversion limits in NSW. The plans share water between the environmental needs of the river and other water uses, such as town water supplies, rural domestic supplies and stock and watering, and industry and irrigation. The plans also establish rules to protect the health of the river system.

 

This system establishes tradeable property rights in water, which provide a means for people and water-dependent businesses to gain access to water through buying allocations or water licences. The granting of a perpetual licence under the water sharing plans provides greater certainty for investment. Water sharing plans for groundwater use also apply within the Great Artesian Basin.31 Here are the plans that apply to the Far West region.

 

Actions

9.1 Implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan to ensure a balance of social, economic and environmental outcomes.
9.2 Finalise water resource plans for rivers and groundwater systems as part of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan and implement water sharing plans.
9.3 Appropriately zone and protect irrigated land from inappropriate development.
9.4 Investigate potential for additional water storage solutions to support agriculture in Walgett, Bourke and Central Darling.

 

The timely supply of well-located and serviced land to establish new processing and manufacturing facilities is essential to support the projected growth of agribusiness, and provide regional-scale facilities that can process regional agricultural produce.

 

The region’s largest towns are expected to have the highest take-up of commercial and industrial employment lands, primarily focused in central business districts and zoned industrial areas. Smaller towns and villages will also need to provide land for local business and industrial activities.

 

Councils have indicated there is a sufficient supply of employment and industrial land across the region to meet projected demand over the next 20 years.32 In some cases, however, this land may not be adequately located, zoned or serviced. Councils will need to provide a sufficient supply of this land, protect it from incompatible land uses, and identify infrastructure requirements in their planning strategies and local plans to support economic growth.

 

Strengthening the commercial core of Broken Hill is essential to sustain and attract new business investment. Clustering commercial activities in centres creates a more vibrant and sustainable main street and a focus for community activities. The NSW Government’s preference is to locate retail activity in existing centres to capitalise on infrastructure and strengthen the role and function of these areas. Strengthening commercial centres will:

  • attract retail and other supporting commercial infrastructure;
  • strengthen the local economy;
  • make the best use of existing infrastructure and services (including public transport and community facilities);
  • facilitate tourism and visitors; and
  • enhance the value of public space and consider net community benefit.

 

The Government will monitor employment lands to help identify when and where infrastructure is needed to promote economic development.

 

Councils have reported capacity issues within some parts of the electricity supply network in the region,33 which are discouraging large energy users from locating in industrial lands.34 There may be opportunities for stand-alone alternative energy generation and the use of renewable energy options, such as wind and solar generation, to meet local energy needs in these areas.

 

Actions

10.1 Encourage the consolidation of isolated, unused or under-utilised pockets of industrial zoned land to create new economic opportunities over the long term.

 

 

10.2 Protect industrial zoned land from potential land use conflicts arising from inappropriate and incompatible surrounding land uses.

 

10.3 Ensure an adequate supply of industrial land with the capacity to enable the development of specialised industry clusters and encourage co-location of related industries to decrease supply chain costs.

 

10.4 Encourage the sustainable development of industrial land to maximise the use of infrastructure, including access to markets and workers, and connectivity to the existing freight network.

 

10.5 Investigate barriers to industrial land take-up in Wentworth.

 

10.6 Accommodate future commercial and retail activity in existing commercial centres, unless there is a demonstrated need and positive social and economic benefits for the community.

 

10.7 Require proposals for new retail developments to demonstrate how they:

  • respond to retail supply and demand needs;
  • respond to innovation in the retail sector;
  • maximise the use of existing infrastructure (including public transport and community facilities) commensurate with the scale of the proposal; and
  • enhance the value of public places.

OCHRE is the NSW Government plan for Aboriginal Affairs. It focuses on:

  • revitalising and promoting Aboriginal languages and culture;
  • creating opportunities;
  • increasing the Aboriginal community’s capacity;
  • providing choice; and
  • empowering Aboriginal people to exercise that choice, as well as giving them the tools to take responsibility for their own future.

 

The Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly is a regional non-incorporated body that represents the interests of Aboriginal people in 16 communities across western NSW. Many of these communities are located within the Far West. The Assembly’s membership comprises representatives from the Local Aboriginal Land Councils, community working parties and a young leaders program.35

 

Local Aboriginal Land Councils within the region are autonomous bodies governed by boards elected by local Aboriginal community members every two years. The Land Councils work for their members and the wider Aboriginal community living in their local area. They provide support to Aboriginal communities for housing, legal and employment matters.36 The NSW Aboriginal Land Council also provides for the development of land rights for Aboriginal people in NSW, in conjunction with a network of Local Aboriginal Land Councils.

 

In the Murdi Paaki Local Decision Making Accord, agreed between the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly and the NSW Government in February 2015, both parties made commitments in the following key priority areas:

  • affordable and appropriate housing;
  • economic development;
  • education;
  • early childhood services; and
  • governance capacity and support.

 

Many OCHRE actions are outside the scope of the planning system. However, there is an opportunity to look at the landholdings of Local Aboriginal Land Councils to see how they can best be planned, managed and developed for the benefit of the local Aboriginal communities. This will allow Aboriginal people to have greater input into planning and development, encourage Aboriginal enterprises to gain economic benefit from their land, and provide greater opportunities for their economic independence and self-determination.

 

Together, Aboriginal Affairs NSW, the Department of Primary Industries and the Department of Planning and Environment, will work with the Land Councils to identify their landholdings and to map the level of constraint at a strategic scale for each site.

 

This information can be used to develop practical solutions for the potential commercial use of the land, such as for Aboriginal housing and employment. It has the potential to provide economic returns to the Local Aboriginal Land Councils that can be invested in assistance programs in the region.

 

Actions

11.1 Work with the Local Aboriginal Land Councils in the region to identify landholdings and map the level of constraint for each site at a strategic scale to develop options for the potential commercial use of the land.
11.2 Identify priority sites that can create a pipeline of potential projects that the Local Aboriginal Land Councils may wish to consider.

Crown Lands Management – Western Division of NSW

The Western Division of NSW includes all local government areas and the Unincorporated Area in the Far West and parts of Bogan and Carrathool local government areas in adjoining regions.

The Western Division of NSW is defined in Crown Land legislation for the purpose of the management and administration of Crown Land in Far Western NSW. Approximately 96 per cent of this land is held as Western Lands leases granted for purposes such as grazing, mixed farming and horticulture, and residential and business development.

Western Lands leases are currently administered by the Minister for Lands and Water under the Western Lands Act 1901.37 The NSW Department of Industry – Lands works cooperatively with communities, including Aboriginal communities, and councils in the region to administer the Crown estate and ensure that sustainable land management activities and programs are implemented and that opportunities for regional development on Crown Land are advanced.

In early 2018, the Western Lands Act 1901 will be repealed and the provisions to manage the leasehold land within the Western Division will be administered through the new Crown Land Management Act 2016.

In Lightning Ridge, historic residential mineral claims will continue to apply. Walgett Local Environmental Plan 2013 allows the building and rebuilding of dwellings and subdivisions on existing residential mineral claims, consistent with the Walgett Shire Growth Management Strategy (2010) and advice from Crown Lands and the Division of Resources and Energy.

Crown Land management review

In 2012, the NSW Government initiated a comprehensive review of Crown Land management. The most significant finding of this review (published in 2014) was that NSW needed new Crown Land legislation.

The NSW Government introduced the Crown Land Management Bill 2016 in response to this review and a further Parliamentary inquiry into Crown Land management. The Bill was the first stage in a process that will consolidate eight pieces of legislation into one harmonised and clear piece of legislation. The Bill will reduce complexity and duplication, deliver better social, environmental and economic outcomes, and facilitate community involvement with Crown Land.

In November 2016, the Bill passed through NSW Parliament and it is anticipated that the new Act will commence in early 2018.

The new Crown Lands Management Act 2016 contains provisions to deliver modern, streamlined and transparent management of the State’s vast Crown Lands. It simplifies the management of Crown Land and reduces red tape. 

The Act will support economic growth and investment across the region, including opportunities for certain Western lands leaseholders to purchase their land in freehold, while maintaining environmental protections of the sensitive lands in the Western Division. In addition, the Far West Initiative is being undertaken, which may have a role in implementing the changes to Crown Land management.

The Unincorporated Area

The Unincorporated Area is not governed by a local council and forms part of the Western Division, which occupies around 40 per cent of the Far West region (93,000 square kilometres).  It includes Silverton, Tibooburra and Milparinka, which receive community services coordinated by the Department of Industry – Lands. The Area surrounds, but does not include, the city of Broken Hill. 

The Unincorporated Area is predominantly pastoral lease holdings held under the Western Lands Act 1901. There are about 264 pastoral properties in the area; the average size is 35,000 hectares and the largest is 271,000 hectares. The Department of Industry – Lands is only responsible for management and administration of Crown Land within this area. It works with the community to administer these lands to ensure sustainable land management activities and programs are implemented and to provide opportunities for regional development. There are currently no planning controls on freehold land in the Unincorporated Area.38

Within the Unincorporated Area, the towns of Silverton and Tibooburra have village committees, which are incorporated under the Associations Incorporation Act 1984. They receive some funding from both the NSW and Australian Governments for local services.39 The Unincorporated Area also has many Local Aboriginal Land Council groups, including Tibooburra, Wanaaring, Mutawintji, Wilcannia, Menindee, Broken Hill and Dareton.

 

Access to some parts of the Unincorporated Area can only occur by air, particularly if roads have been closed by rainfall or flooding. The Royal Flying Doctor Service in Broken Hill is an important provider of health services to remote areas of Australia, including the Unincorporated Area. 

No formal governance and planning arrangements apply to the Unincorporated Area and, from a planning perspective, this is evident in the lack of a community-led strategic land use strategy, local plan and related decision-making. The Unincorporated Area has significant heritage features and environmental assets that have very limited protection. Similarly, there are no planning controls or guidance on development thresholds and the community has a limited say in the delivery of services, land use development and management. 

 

In the absence of a local government authority, the Western Lands Commissioner has a consent authority role for various pieces of legislation relating to the Unincorporated Area. With the commencement of the Crown Land Management Act in early 2018, the role of the Western Lands Commissioner will cease to exist and these responsibilities will be managed by appropriate government agencies.

Action 

12.1 Prepare a local plan for the Unincorporated Area.


Page last updated: 25/06/2019