NSW Department of Planning and Environment

The South East and Tablelands has a diverse economy, underpinned by connections to Canberra and Sydney and varied agriculture and tourism opportunities. It is a hub for renewable energy generation, and its nature-based tourism – including skiing, surfing and bushwalking – attracts increasing numbers of domestic and international visitors.

The region’s prosperity relies on an efficient transport network, a healthy rural and natural environment, and a collaborative relationship with the ACT.

Access to global gateways at the Port of Eden and Canberra Airport are providing greater exposure to national and international tourism and export markets. Improved connections to Port Kembla, Port Botany, the Port of Melbourne and Western Sydney Airport will give a competitive advantage.

Considerable demand from middle-class Asian markets, combined with the ability to transport produce from Canberra Airport to Singapore and beyond to 11 Chinese cities, can be a game changer for agricultural exports.

The Snowy Mountains, the South Coast and the rural hinterland offer rich recreational experiences including food, wine and cultural trails. These areas can capitalise on international tourism demand to grow the visitor economy.

The Australian Government is likely to continue to be the biggest employer, with a 20 per cent share of jobs.2 People who commute to Canberra will benefit from a greater diversity of work opportunities in public administration, professional services and defence.

Communities in the north of the region, including Moss Vale, Goulburn and Crookwell, will benefit from investment in Western Sydney, enhanced digital connections, sustainability and value added agriculture.

Priority growth sectors for the South East and Tablelands

This Regional Plan focuses on the following priority growth sectors to diversify the economy:

  • tourism;
  • agriculture and aquaculture;
  • freight and logistics;
  • health, disability and aged care;
  • public administration and defence;
  • education and training; and
  • renewable energy.

The planning system needs to respond to the specific needs of these sectors to generate economic growth.

Direction 1 : Leverage access to the global gateway of Canberra Airport

Canberra Airport will drive economic growth in the region. It is expected to generate over 21,000 jobs by 2030 and contribute $2.42 billion per year to the regional economy.3

As there is no aircraft noise curfew, its international services are unconstrained. Its passenger terminal has capacity to offer more services, and the master planned freight precinct offers a realistic alternative to Sydney Airport.

Canberra Airport’s ongoing ability to operate and expand its services cannot be jeopardised by residential development.

Some freight routes across the ACT border are inefficient, and this will intensify as the South East and Tablelands grows. Improving the ability to move freight across the ACT border will better enable agricultural producers to access export markets through the airport. Consistent information on freight movements across jurisdictions will improve the planning for and efficiency of the freight network.

Networking Canberra Airport’s international operations into the region’s other airports, including those in Moruya and Merimbula, will increase exposure to other markets. Existing master plans aim to develop transport, tourism and commercial precincts around these regional airports.

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1.1 Protect Canberra Airport’s current and future operations by maintaining restrictions on the location of nearby residential development.

1.2 Enhance data sharing on freight movements between the NSW and ACT Governments to improve freight planning and management.

1.3 Plan for compatible and complementary economic development opportunities around the region’s airports, including in Moruya and Merimbula.

Direction 2: Enhance tourism and export opportunities through the Port of Eden

The Port of Eden is the third deepest natural harbour in the Southern Hemisphere, making it ideal for large vessels. This working port is a premier location for whale watching, an merging cruise destination and home to one of the largest fishing fleets in NSW. It is also home to Snug Cove, a popular refuge for yachts.

The port accommodates a Royal Australian Navy wharf and is the primary woodchip export site in Australia, supporting a strong timber industry in the region. General cargo is processed at the multipurpose wharf in Twofold Bay and the port includes an eight-hectare cargo storage facility.

The $44 million extension of the breakwater wharf will allow more cruise vessels to visit, and a wave attenuator will improve the safety within the harbour.

The significant increase in passenger numbers from cruise ships will draw tourists to visit the world-class network of national parks and pristine marine parks, and experience wildlife events such as the migration of humpback and other whales or food journeys like the Oyster Trail. As a tourism gateway, the Port of Eden provides access to snow-based and eco-tourism activities that set the region apart.

Investment in the Port of Eden will benefit from additional landside infrastructure including a cruise terminal, more diverse local tourism services, and improved connections to Canberra Airport. This would boost visitor numbers and offer greater economic opportunities for local businesses, such as supplying quality regional seafood and produce to cruise ships.

The NSW Government is developing a long-term Cruise Development Plan to help NSW plan for the forecast growth in cruise ship calls and passenger numbers and to capitalise on opportunities to grow overnight visitor expenditure.

The Port of Eden, smaller ports in Batemans Bay and Bermagui, as well as boating harbours, marine parks and aquatic reserves offer opportunities for recreational boating, water sports, fishing, and commercial charters and touring experiences, such as whale and dolphin watching.


2.1 Promote business and industry development to attract visitors and cruise vessels to Eden.

2.2 Develop a strategy to encourage marine-based tourism along the South Coast and Illawarra-Shoalhaven.

2.3 Foster opportunities for embarkation and disembarkation facilities around wharf infrastructure to support marine-based tourism.

2.4 Protect port-related infrastructure at the Port of Eden from encroachment through local environmental plans.

2.5 Continue to implement actions and prioritise investment in boating infrastructure as identified in relevant regional boating plans to improve boating safety, boat storage and waterway access, including better launching facilities for marine-based tourism.

Direction 3: Develop the Snowy Mountains into Australia’s premier year-round alpine destination

The Kosciuszko National Park, ski resorts and the nationally iconic Snowy River create a strong tourism economy, driven mainly by skiing and related winter sport experiences over a high season of 16 to 18 weeks. The sustainability of natural snow conditions within a changing climate will be a challenge if the area is to capitalise on the higher number of visitors who arrive through Canberra Airport.

This can be partly addressed by promoting an extended tourism season that will make the Snowy Mountains and Snowy River, like Queenstown New Zealand, a year-round destination for mountain biking, bushwalking, horse riding, kayaking, cultural and educational tourism, and recreational fishing.

An increase in visitor numbers requires better parking access, public facilities, signage and boat launching facilities. A Visitor Economy Strategy for the Snowy Mountains will identify investment opportunities agreed to by relevant stakeholders.


3.1 Enhance opportunities for visitation and recreation on the Snowy River by improving access and signage.

3.2 Develop a Visitor Economy Strategy for the Snowy Mountains.

3.3 Investigate opportunities for improved access to the Snowy Mountains through flexible transport options, improved connections through existing transport modes, and air travel.

Direction 4: Leverage growth opportunities from Western Sydney

Western Sydney is Australia’s third largest economy, with a bigger population and greater number of jobs than either Adelaide or Perth.4 It is home to 2.2 million people and is expected to grow by 32 per cent over the next 15 years.5

The new Western Sydney Airport will be an important aviation, innovation and business hub increasing access to a range of employment opportunities for South East and Tablelands workers living in commuting distance. Already, almost 16 per cent of the resident workforce of Wingecarribee local government area commutes to Sydney for work.6

The South East and Tablelands should be promoted as an affordable place for Western Sydney-based industries to relocate and expand. It offers access to the M7 and M5 motorways, less pressure on land for urban development and a skilled workforce.

The region, especially Wingecarribee and Goulburn-Mulwaree local government areas are well positioned to use Western Sydney’s growth as an impetus to create new jobs. The availability of jobs enables economic development, and employment lands at Goulburn or the Moss Vale Enterprise Corridor offer well located opportunities.

High quality infrastructure, including electricity, gas and telecommunications, must be available to service businesses and industries. For example, a deficiency in the gas network to service Harden has been identified as a barrier to attracting more diversity in the agricultural sector, including poultry farming, and capturing growth opportunities from Western Sydney.


4.1 Foster initiatives to promote the South East and Tablelands as a suitable place for businesses to relocate.

4.2 Maintain a supply of appropriately serviced employment land to create opportunities for new industrial development.

4.3 Monitor development so that infrastructure planning responds to investment opportunities.

Direction 5: Promote agricultural innovation, sustainability and value-add opportunities

Farmers are becoming directly involved in retail, marketing and value-adding or secondary processing including small species abattoirs, Bega Cheese’s processing and packaging unit, and regional saleyards such as the South Eastern Livestock Exchange in Yass.

Building innovation and sustainability into the agricultural sector will improve the sector’s adaptability and ability to maintain high quality, clean and green produce. Digital technology creates greater efficiencies and cost competitiveness by improving the productivity and quality of produce or developing sustainable farm management practices.

The proposed Bega Cheese and the CSIRO agricultural research facility at Boorowa will enable research and development into innovative farming practices and new technologies to sustain production and productivity, open new market opportunities and maintain a competitive edge.

The South East and Tablelands is a major cherry producing region for NSW. Over 80 per cent of NSW cherry exports are destined for Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore markets.7 The timing of the region’s seasonal agricultural production provides opportunities for producers to expand supply to global markets in the Northern Hemisphere.

Small-scale producers of boutique foods and beverages such as truffles, processed meats and wines could access larger markets through collaborative approaches and industry cooperatives. These activities can promote regional tourism opportunities through farm stays, farm gate trails, food events and farmers markets in Young, Bungendore, Braidwood and Moruya.

Value-added agriculture opportunities need access to the regional freight network, utility infrastructure, skilled labour and export markets. New development must not create or exacerbate land use conflicts.



5.1 Promote commercial, tourism and recreational activities that support the agricultural sector.

5.2 Encourage value-add agricultural opportunities through flexible planning provisions in local strategies and local environmental plans.

5.3 Encourage co-location of related value-added agricultural industries to maximise infrastructure, decrease supply chain costs, increase economies of scale and attract further investment.

5.4 Promote opportunities to better connect the agricultural industry to export markets.

Direction 6: Position the region as a hub of renewable energy excellence

The South East and Tablelands offers natural advantages in wind, hydro and solar energy generation. Already, the cluster of wind farms between Queanbeyan and Crookwell, as well as at Boco Rock, and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, lead the provision of renewable energy. Further investment to increase the capacity of these facilities would enhance the region’s reputation as a hub for renewable energy.

The region can also draw on the significant innovation and research on renewable energy from the Australian National University in Canberra. It can also take advantage of the established network of high voltage transmission lines that traverse the region, the NSW Government’s target for net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and the ACT Government’s renewable energy target of 100 per cent by 2020.

Becoming a renewable energy hub aligns with the work of the South East Region of Renewable Energy Excellence, an industry initiative to position the South East and Tablelands as a region of excellence for Australia’s renewable energy industry.8

The NSW Government’s Renewable Energy Action Plan (2013) guides renewable energy development and aims to streamline negotiations between network service providers and investors to make timeframes for grid connections in NSW more competitive. The Action Plan also encourages early and effective community engagement in renewable energy projects.

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6.1 Identify opportunities for renewable energy industries.

6.2 Develop analytical tools to map large-scale renewable energy potential.

6.3 Encourage the co-location of renewable energy projects to maximise infrastructure, including corridors with access to the electricity network.

6.4 Promote best practice community engagement and maximise community benefits from renewable energy projects.

6.5 Promote appropriate smaller-scale renewable energy projects using bioenergy, solar, wind, small-scale hydro, geothermal or other innovative storage technologies.

Direction 7: Grow the South Coast’s aquaculture industry

The South Coast supplies oysters, mussels and scallops to international as well as domestic markets. The coast’s 103 oyster farmers mainly produce Sydney Rock Oysters and smaller quantities of Native Oysters and Pacific Oysters.9 Significant land-based aquaculture will continue, including the farming of freshwater fish species such as trout, Murray cod, barramundi and yabbies.

The South Coast’s oysters, mussels and scallops have an international reputation as being safe, sustainable and of high quality. The area known as Australia’s Oyster Coast attracts increasing numbers of visitors keen to taste premium oysters from estuaries stretching 300 kilometres along the coast. Live oysters now can be delivered to Asia within 30 hours of harvesting.10

International and domestic demand exceeds supply, requiring the industry to expand production, while retaining its premium quality.11 The industry is addressing the shortage of oyster spat from the recent Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome virus affecting Tasmanian hatcheries, and requires suitable land for a hatchery close to waterways with the right infrastructure.

The South Coast’s aquaculture catchments will be protected from urban development and other activities that can negatively impact water quality.


7.1 Facilitate the development of a shellfish hatchery to safeguard oysters and other shellfish production.

7.2 Minimise the impacts of development on aquatic habitats in aquacultural estuaries.

7.3 Promote opportunities to better connect the aquaculture industry to export markets.

Direction 8: Protect important agricultural land

The South East and Tablelands offers stable and favourable growing conditions and easy access to export markets. It is well placed to take advantage of growing demand from Asia and the Sydney Basin, where the capacity to feed residents is forecast to drop from 20 per cent of food demand to less than six per cent over the next 15 years.10 

This requires a critical mass of agricultural industries that can increase productivity, sustain employment and contribute to a secure, local fresh food supply.

The NSW Government’s 2014 Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land mapping identifies agricultural land of significance to the State. This could be complemented by regional-scale mapping that reflects regional climatic and geological conditions, and regional industry needs.

Important agricultural land will be mapped to guide planning decisions, local environmental plans and infrastructure investment, and to provide information on important agricultural industries and resources. They may include biophysical attributes and socio-economic data.

The protection of agricultural land also requires the management of biosecurity risks, which increase as a result of trade, the spread of feral and exotic species, tourism, climate variability and competing priorities for resources. These issues can be managed by applying the recommendations of biosecurity plans in land use planning decisions.


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8.1 Map important agricultural land to better inform strategic and local planning processes.

8.2 Protect identified important agricultural land from land use conflict and fragmentation and manage the interface between important agricultural land and other land uses through local environmental plans.

8.3 Develop profiles of the leading agricultural industries to guide future investment decisions.

8.4 Minimise biosecurity risks by undertaking risk assessments that take into account biosecurity plans, and applying appropriate buffer areas.

Direction 9: Grow tourism in the region

Visitors to the South East and Tablelands enjoy year-round access to mountains, coasts and rural hinterlands, as well as Canberra’s world-class cultural institutions, such as the National Museum of Australia, the Australian War Memorial and the National Gallery of Australia.

The promotion of the diversity of experiences in the broader ‘Canberra region’ will recognise the South East and Tablelands as an important component of the ACT’s visitor economy.

Canberra Airport’s international links will create a global gateway to significant visitor destinations in the capital and surrounding region. Western Sydney Airport will provide another gateway for visitors. The region will also continue to be promoted as a destination for local visitors from Sydney and the Illawarra.

To capitalise on increased visitation from Asia, the region will showcase its clean and green reputation through locally grown produce from providores and farm gates. The variety of experiences can be expanded through the sustainable use of national parks, Crown Lands, agricultural lands and other assets. This can attract people interested in nature and eco-based experiences, agri-tourism, adventure experiences (such as canoeing and mountain biking) or arts and cultural activities such as those offered on the Bundian Way.

Tourism places pressure on transport systems and services, particularly during holiday periods. An efficient transport system is critical to tourism growth.

The Bundian Way

The Bundian Way is a shared history pathway between Targangal (Kosciuszko) and Bilgalera (Fisheries Beach, near Eden) that has served many purposes for Aboriginal communities and European settlers. The 365-kilometre pathway connects the highest part of Australia and the coastline via an ancient Aboriginal trade route. The route once brought people together for gatherings associated with springtime whale migration and swarms of bogong moths in the high country during the summertime.

Potential commercial opportunities include guided tours, camping, events, kayaking, and educational activities that also help to strengthen local Aboriginal communities.

Commercial development requires collaboration between the Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Australian, NSW and local governments, as well as private landowners. This work must address the delivery of tourist infrastructure, access and funding arrangements.11 


9.1 Enhance the broader tourism offering by collaborating with Visit Canberra and the ACT Government.

9.2 Encourage tourism development in natural areas that support conservation outcomes.

9.3 Align local strategies with the relevant destination management plan.

9.4 Collaborate with and support Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council’s development of the Bundian Way as a sustainable economic venture.

9.5 Address seasonal transport capacity shortages efficiently through initiatives such as:

  • branding public transport services;
  • raising awareness of travel options;
  • supporting seasonal transport options such as holiday bus services and/or park and ride services; and
  • introduce flexible and on-demand transport options.
Direction 10: Strengthen the economic self-determination of Aboriginal communities

OCHRE (Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility and Empowerment) is the NSW Government’s 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.

There is an opportunity to review 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 community. This will allow Aboriginal people to gain greater economic benefit from their land and increase opportunities for economic independence.

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

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

Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council land and economic participation in solution brokerage

Aboriginal Affairs NSW brought together several State agencies, Bega Valley Shire Council and Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council (Eden LALC) to collaboratively design and implement a mechanism to address long-standing issues impeding Eden LALC’s land and economic participation aspirations.

Key outcomes from the solution brokerage include the establishment of working relationships between Eden LALC and several State agencies; an agreement to progress an Aboriginal Land Agreement (the first in NSW); and the development of a land capability database.

The agreed outcomes will set a foundation for the NSW Government and local government to continue to build and refine this collaboration to support Eden LALC’s economic participation opportunities.12


10.1 Work with the Local Aboriginal Land Councils to conduct a strategic assessment of their landholdings to identify priority sites with economic development potential.

10.2 Identify priority sites that can create a pipeline of potential projects.

10.3 Deliver opportunities to increase the economic independence of Aboriginal communities through training, employment and tourism.

Direction 11: Enhance strategic transport links to support economic growth

Increasing the productivity of the freight network by improving travel times and freight capacity will bring considerable economic benefits. The road network, particularly strategic transport links, need to support higher productivity vehicles. This can be achieved by removing height and weight restrictions on major routes, improving rest area options and addressing the constraint of narrow bridges.

Improvements to the regional network are coordinated by Transport for NSW through two programs:

  • Fixing Country Rail removes productivity and efficiency constraints on the regional rail network; and
  • Fixing Country Roads provides targeted funding to councils for local road projects that will eliminate connectivity constraints.

Major opportunities for the freight network include:

  • improving east-west B-double access along major highways and key regional and local roads connecting the South Coast to Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne;
  • managing amenity impacts where key routes run through town centres, particularly in the Hilltops and Queanbeyan-Palerang local government areas;
  • planning for the potential duplication of the Barton Highway and other key routes;
  • improving rail transport and investigating intermodal facilities and the potential to re-open non-operational lines to support connectivity to markets for passengers and freight;
  • building on existing facilities such as grain silos and bunkers to support intermodal connectivity; and
  • where sustainable freight demand exists, non-operational lines could be brought back into operation. The feasibility of reopening the Blayney to Demondrille line was investigated by Transport for NSW.

The Australian Government is investigating the viability of building a high-speed rail network to reduce travel time between capital cities along Australia’s east coast. This network could present significant economic and housing opportunities that will require more detailed planning and consideration. Land uses that may affect the long-term viability of the proposed corridor should be avoided.

Future Transport Strategy

To better manage transport infrastructure and maximise road safety and other benefits for all road users, Transport for NSW is developing the Future Transport Strategy. This will involve a comprehensive engagement with the community and industry across NSW. The first stage of this engagement with rural and regional NSW will include activities with local entities and events across a sample of coastal, inland and remote locations covering regional cities, centres and towns. This engagement will take place in the middle of 2017.

Strategic transport links

  • Kings Highway
  • Princes Highway
  • Bungendore Road
  • Macs Reef Road
  • Hume Highway
  • Barton Highway
  • Federal Highway
  • Main Road 92
  • Monaro Highway
  • Olympic Highway
  • Lachlan Valley Way
  • Burley Griffin Way
  • Pialligo Avenue
  • Canberra Avenue
  • Snowy Mountains Highway
  • Imlay Road

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11.1 Improve the capacity of the regional freight network by investigating and prioritising upgrades to narrow bridges, culverts, alignment, and lane and shoulder width that constrain restricted access vehicles.

11.2 Deliver local and regional road projects that support the regional freight network.

1.3 Limit inappropriate adjoining development and direct access points along strategic transport links including the Hume, Federal, Illawarra, Barton and Kings highways.

11.4 Investigate options to improve heavy vehicle rest areas appropriate for the demand.

11.5 Work with the Australian Government to plan for a future high-speed rail corridor.

Direction 12: Promote business activities in urban centres

Strategic and local centres will be the focus for more intensive employment uses, public space improvements, and technology and transport connections to Canberra and Sydney. This will encourage investment, housing, job opportunities and services.

Strategic and local centres also support tourism. Centres should be places of commercial and retail activity that are attractive for community and recreational activities to encourage visitors.

New retail activity will be directed to existing centres to increase centre vitality, capitalise on existing transport and community facilities, attract complementary activities, and enhance the value of existing public spaces. Any retail or commercial development outside of existing commercial centres will need to demonstrate social and economic benefits to the community.

New and emerging technologies will create employment opportunities as well as innovations in the way services are delivered. The National Broadband Network is enhancing digital connections and growing knowledge-intensive industries, small businesses and smart work hubs.  There is enormous potential to attract professionals who want to enjoy the region’s lifestyle while accessing wider employment markets.


12.1 Use flexible planning controls to facilitate knowledge-intensive industries and the development of small work hubs.

12.2 Encourage mixed use developments that cater for commercial, retail, residential and tourism uses through local planning controls.

12.3 Reinforce the role and function of centres as the primary places for commerce, retail, social activity and regional services through local strategies and local environmental plans.

12.4 Focus future commercial and retail activity in existing commercial centres, unless there is a demonstrated need and positive social and economic benefits to locate this activity elsewhere.

12.5 Require proposals for new retail development to demonstrate how they:

  • respond to retail supply and demand needs;
  • respond to innovations in the retail sector;
  • maximise the use of existing and planned infrastructure (including public transport and community facilities) commensurate with the scale of the proposal; and
  • enhance the value of the public realm.
Direction  13: Manage the ongoing use of mineral resources

The South East and Tablelands contains valuable mineral resources including coal, precious and base metals, and extractive materials.

Coal resources are concentrated in the Wingecarribee Local Government Area where there are two active underground coal mines (Wongawilli and Dendrobium) on the eastern border of the area. Production is largely contained in the adjacent Wollongong Local Government Area.

There are deposits of important base metals (lead, zinc, silver, copper) around Woodlawn and Captains Flat. Extractive resources, such as sand and hard rock for construction and sources of clay/shale for brick making, are extracted around Marulan, Googong, Bungendore and Lake George. Limestone is extracted from Marulan and gold is extracted from Majors Creek.

Information about the location of current exploration and mining production titles in NSW, and explanations of mining and production titles and the role of the community and government in the decision-making process for mining or resource projects, is available at http://commonground.nsw.gov.au.

The location of many of these resources, near rail lines and freeways, and their proximity to Australia’s biggest construction materials market in Sydney, makes them particularly important to NSW.

The impact of urban expansion on resource areas needs to be appraised when councils evaluate planning proposals to rezone land, review local environment plans or sequence land releases. In places like Wingecarribee Local Government Area, which has active mining, this also means avoiding new settlements in subsidence areas.


13.1 Consult with the NSW Division of Resources and Geosciences when assessing applications for land use changes (strategic land use planning, rezoning and planning proposals) and new developments or expansions.

13.2 Protect areas of mineral and energy resources potential through local strategies and local environmental plans.

Page last updated: 28/07/2022