Know Your Hunter Region

To Sustain the Hunter,
We Must Know the Hunter

2008 Presentation of The UON’s Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment
Provided by Dr Karel Grezel.

Hunter Geology. Source: McManus et al (eds., 2000) Journeys, Allen & Unwin

It all began around 200 million years ago…….

• Our piece of the earth’s crust was located around 70 degrees South latitude as part of Gondwana, the great southern land mass which was starting to break up.

• A crack in the earth’s crust (the Hunter Thrust) formed separating the older glacial and volcanic rocks in the north east from the coal seams, marine sediments and massive freshwater sandstones in the south west.

• Wollemi pines, related plants and fish were plentiful.

• The land surface slowly eroded, soils formed and vegetation developed in patterns reflecting soil types and local microclimate.

Hunter Soils. Source: McManus et al (eds., 2000) Journeys, Allen & Unwin


Hunter River System. Source: McManus et al (eds., 2000) Journeys, Allen & Unwin


• Average annual rainfall varies from 600mm in the Goulburn River valley west of Denman to 1400mm in the Barrington Tops north of Dungog

• Surface run-off ranges from 5% of rainfall in the Goulburn River catchment to 38% in the Tillegra area of the Williams catchment

Hunter Groundwater. Source: McManus et al (eds., 2000) Journeys, Allen & Unwin

• Average annual evaporation rates range from 1200mm in the Barrington Tops to 1600mm over most of the valley.

• Many stream banks and channels are unstable

• Water quality is generally poor with respect to phosphorus and salinity

• Water quality is best in streams draining forested areas

• Some 60% of stored water is allocated for power generation and urban supply

Hunter Catchment. Source: McManus et al (eds., 2000) Journeys, Allen & Unwin
Aboriginal Hunter. Source: McManus et al (eds., 2000) Journeys, Allen & Unwin


Around 50,000 years ago the first of 2000 generations of Aboriginal people arrived.

• Since the coastline stabilised around 5 – 6,000 years ago, Aboriginal people occupied tribal lands defined largely by the Hunter River and its catchment landmarks.

• Human activity was focused on providing sustenance and security for perhaps ……… local people with limited contacts beyond tribal boundaries.

Hunter Coal Towns. Source: McManus et al (eds., 2000) Journeys, Allen & Unwin

European land use since the early 1800’s has been focused on land based industries delivering goods to Sydney and wider markets (Cameron Archer presentation)

• Land use is now dominated by coal with 13 mines in the Lower Hunter producing 17 million tonnes per year and 27 mines in the Upper Hunter producing over 100 million tonnes per year.

• Is used in the region’s coal fired power stations and tonnes per year is exported through the port of Newcastle.

• 200,000 hectares of State Forests produce 100,000 cubic metres of timber per year through 30 sawmills and processing plants.

• Around 3,000 farm holdings, covering just over 150,000 hectares of land produce goods to the value of more than $360 million per year, some 4% of the total NSW agricultural production.

• 70% of Australian thoroughbred foals are bred in the Hunter.

• Grape production to the value of $19 million represents 7.4% of NSW production.

• Nearly 1 million hectares of land protected in parks and reserves.

Isohyet-Hunter. Source: McManus et al (eds., 2000) Journeys, Allen & Unwin

The climate is changing.
(Howard Bridgman presentation)

• Temperatures are increasing and a warmer future is indicated requiring adaptation of agricultural industries, and urban lifestyles

• Scenarios suggest lower and more variable rain in the future, with impacts on agriculture and water supplies.

Hunter Vegetation. Source: McManus et al (eds., 2000) Journeys, Allen & Unwin


Vegetation and Biodiversity
(Sharon Vernon HCR CMA and Michael Mahoney UoN)

• Vegetation cover has been substantially removed

• Remnants are fragmented

• Extinction rates are estimated to be up to 1000 times historical rates

• Green and Golden Bell Frog, Hastings River Mouse and Rufous Scrub Bird are particularly vulnerable to climate change

• Threatening processes need to be managed


Hunter Vegetation. Source: McManus et al (eds., 2000) Journeys, Allen & Unwin

Who are we and how do we move?
(Pauline McGuirk presentation)

• We are getting older and more dependent on support services

• Fewer children

• 85% of dwellings are single detached cottages

• Growing dominance of small, 1-2 person households will produce increased demand for a diversity of dwelling types

• Some 80% of people travel to work by car

• 60% of projected population growth will be housed in new release areas in Maitland and Cessnock.


Economic sustainability
(Caroline Velduizen – HVRF presentation)

• Less reliance on goods production

• More employment opportunities in the knowledge sector – crucial for innovation

• Aging population produces job opportunities in health care and support

• Mining only provides <4% of total employment but has significant multiplier effects.

• Arts and recreation facilities are important for attracting a diversified workforce.

• Year 12 retention rates and non-school qualification rates are increasing in the Hunter but still lower than NSW averages.

• Innovation and infrastructure investments are needed to attract a skilled labour force and ensure employment growth


Wellbeing Watch
(Shanthi Ramanathan HVRF presentation)

• Wellbeing – (ie happiness, feeling valued, having a sense of purpose) is high both in the Hunter and in NSW

• 20% rate of relatively low wellbeing means that 10-20,000 people in the Hunter have had difficulty meeting the cost of food and rent.

• Low wellbeing scores are most common among sole parents, people living alone, early school leavers and smokers.

• 59% are overweight or obese which has health effects

• Higher school retention and post school education have positive links with lifetime wellbeing

• Need to cater for disadvantaged people, encourage education and invest in relationship building and community connectivity.

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