State of the Environment Report title
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2004 Report

Bega Valley


Indicator description

Results for this indicator are also available for  

What the results tell us for Bega Valley

Maps of land use in | 1997 | 2000 | 2004 |

The main landuses in Bega Valley Shire in the current reporting period were conservation and timber production, which together comprised 66% of the shire. Most of this area is managed by NSW State Government agencies. The other major landuse was agriculture, which comprised some 20% of the shire.

The main landuse change within the current period was the conversion of about 23,250 hectares of timber production forest to conservation under the Eden Regional Forest Agreement. Other changes during the current reporting period include the development of 880 hectares of rural residential land and 20 hectares of urban land.

Figure 1. Major landuse in
Bega Valley Shire, June 2004

Source: see About the data

How is the land being used now?

Of the total shire area (627,950 hectares), the dominant landuses at the end of the current reporting period were conservation (42%), timber production (24%), agriculture (19%) and bushland (13%). Bega, Eden, Merimbula, Pambula, Bermagui, Tathra and Tura Beach townships, which covered about 1% of the total shire area, comprised the majority of the urban land.

What has changed and why?

Two major landuse changes occurred within the shire between the end of the current and last two reporting periods, viz a decrease in land under timber production and a corresponding increase in conservation land (see Table 1).

Table 1: Landuse as a percentage of the total gazetted area of Bega Valley Shire in 1997, 2000 and 2004
Landuse Category199720002004
Timber production33%28%24%

Source: see About the data

Grazing lands, Bemboka area. Credit: Bega Valley Shire Council

Grazing lands in the Bemboka area

The amount of land under agricultural production remained stable in the current reporting period (see Table 1). However grazing and rural residential increased by about 830 and 880 hectares (respectively), while mixed farming and cropping decreased by about 580 and 1000 hectares (respectively). Reasons for these changes may include:

Although the fluctuation between grazing and mixed farming and the decrease in cropping are part of longer-term trends within the shire (see Figure 2), it is possible that some of these changes during the current reporting period may have been the result of drought conditions. The 2002–03 drought was the third driest year since 1882.

There is a demand for rural lifestyle properties within Bega Valley Shire as indicated by the extent of rural residential development within existing rural residential zones (see Population and Economy). Although the data does, in part, reflect a true increase in such developments, a small portion of the area mapped for 2004 was not built on at the end of the reporting period (see About the data).

No horticultural landuses were mapped for the shire during the current reporting period. There are, however, some small scale horticultural activities that tend not to show up at the map scales used including vineyards and olives (Roche 2006).

Figure 2: Agricultural landuse subcategories in Bega Valley Shire, in 1997, 2000 and 2004

graph of agricultural landuse subcategories in Bega Valley Shire

Source: see About the data

Timber production

Land under timber production in the shire decreased by about 27,900 hectares during the current reporting period, primarily due to the reduction of state-owned timber production forests. These areas would generally have comprised the least productive forest.

About 12,800 hectares of native hardwood forests were transferred from Forests NSW to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), as part of the Southern Regional Forest Agreement (Southern RFA), to be managed for conservation. In addition, some 10,400 hectares of native hardwood forest was partially rezoned to Forest Management Zone 1 (including about 7,800 hectares dedicated as Flora Reserves—see Table 2) and Forest Management Zone 2 (informal reserves). These two forest management zones are still managed by Forests NSW but for the protection of their high or significant conservation values instead of for timber production. For more information about the Southern RFA process, which was part of comprehensive regional assessments undertaken in NSW between 1997 and 2000, see

Table 2. Flora Reserves dedicated within Bega Valley Shire, January 2004
Flora ReserveArea (hectares)
Mount Poole940
Letts Mountain910
Sidlings Swamp1248
Nethercote Falls146
Watergums Creek238
Narrabarba Hill125

Source: Department of Primary Industries (Forests NSW) 2004

As a result of the regional forest agreements, the Forestry and National Parks Estate Act 1998 was enacted. This act scheduled transfers of State Forests and other Crown lands to national park estate or Aboriginal ownership. As a result of this, approximately 840 hectares of state-owned timber production forest was converted to freehold land under the ownership of the Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council. A further 1500 hectares of former State Forest subject to Crown lease was vested in the then Minister for National Parks and Wildlife, subject to leasehold interest, but was not dedicated as conservation reserves under the 1974 NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act.

No data were located to explain why the remaining 2,000 hectares of State Forest were taken out of timber production (see About the data).

Figure 3. Timber production in Bega Valley Shire, in 1997, 2000 and 2004

graph of timber production subcategories in Bega Valley Shire

Source: see About the data


The area of land in the shire categorised as bushland appeared to decrease by about 1,600 hectares during the current reporting period, and by about 1200 hectares between 1997 and 2000. These decreases are partially due to bushland on Crown and freehold lands being dedicated within national parks and nature reserves (and thus being categorised as 'conservation' in 2004).


The area of land under conservation increased by approximately 25,600 hectares in the current reporting period (see Figure 4), partly due to land being transferred from timber production and other Crown lands under the Eden RFA (see Timber production and Bushland above) to help develop a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system to protect forest ecosystems and conserve biodiversity. These lands became nature reserves, national parks and 'other conservation' areas. These areas included small areas of freehold (about 1020 hectares) and Crown lands (about 280 hectares) that were converted to national park during the reporting period through the National Parks and Wildlife Service's ongoing reserve acquisition program.

Most of the transferred land became national parks and 'other conservation' areas (see Figure 4). New reserves created during the reporting period included Gulaga and Kooraban national parks and Yurramie State Conservation Area. Additions to existing reserves included Ben Boyd, Bournda, Mimosa Rocks, South East Forest and Wadbilliga national parks.

This increase in conservation land is part of a longer-term trend identified in Regional State of Environment reporting (see Table 1) with land under conservation in the shire increasing by 51,900 hectare since 1997 (see Figure 4). In the previous reporting period lands were added to Davidson Whaling Station Historic Site, Bournda Nature Reserve and Ben Boyd, Biamanga, Bournda, Mimosa Rocks, Mount Imlay and South East Forest National Parks. This land was transferred primarily under the Eden RFA, private land purchases and Crown land transfers.

Figure 4. Conservation landuse subcategories within Bega Valley Shire in 1997, 2000 and 2004

graph of conservation landuse subcategories in Bega Valley Shire

Source: see About the data


The total amount of urban land in the shire increased by approximately 20 hectares in the current reporting period, due to expansion of residential areas within the Eden township (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Urban landuse subcategories within Bega Valley Shire in 1997, 2000 and 2004

graph of urban landuse subcategories in Bega Valley Shire

Source: see About the data


As in the last two reporting periods, three mining leases and 13 sites in the shire were used for sand and gravel extraction for construction purposes during the current period.

Future planning

Council is working on a number of planning reports which will form the basis of the Bega Valley Settlement Strategy (BVSC 2005a). This strategy will outline a plan allocating land and services for current and future landuse within the shire, taking into account social, economic and environmental constraints. As part of this strategy a Rural Land Review is being progressed, with community workshops held during April and May 2004. This review will lead to the preparation of new Development Control Plans and the development of a new Local Environment Plan which may include locality-specific provisions (BVSC 2005b). Council is also preparing a commercial strategy for the shire which should be finalised during the next reporting period.

About the data

| Landuse classification | Data sources | Analysis methods |

The landuse maps and statistics reported here were prepared either by Agrecon or the Office of the Commissioner for the Environment (OCE), using sources that included State Government agency and council data, and satellite image classification. The primary purpose of the mapping was to assess trends in landuse change and not to provide an accurate account of the actual areas changed.

In general the data provided by council and State Government departments showed a higher level of detail than satellite classifications. Therefore, these layers were usually used as the primary source of data and supplemented by satellite imagery (Landsat data and SPOT VI data) as needed (mostly for agricultural landuses and bushland).

Bega Valley Shire Council provided Local Environment Plan and cadastral data. Of this OCE and council validated the rural residential and future urban zonings (using cadastre to identify subdivisions and ground truthing to see if development had occurred in these areas) to determine actual changes in rural residential and urban landuses between 2000 and 2004.

Rural residential areas mapped in the 2004 landuse layer include areas for which infrastructure is in place (e.g. roads). However some of these areas have not yet been populated, with between 30% to 100% of allotments being sold and built upon.

The unexplained 2,000 hectares of State Forest taken out of timber production may be due to anomalies or inaccuracies in the mapping layers used to calculate the figures for timber production, or to unaccounted changes in forestry management practices within the shire.

All landuse maps for Bega Valley Shire were provided to council for checking and correction, particularly for 2004 and 2000.

All percentages shown in this indicator are a percentage of the shire and not a percentage of the landuse type. The areal extents of the various landuse types (hectares) were calculated from data that had been adjusted (normalised) to take account of (usually minor) differences between the size of Bega Valley Shire as gazetted by council, and the size calculated from spatial data.


Bega Valley Shire Council (2005a) Planning Reports—Background to Settlement Strategy Reports, Bega Valley Shire Council, viewed 27 September 2005, Planning_Controls/reports/planning_reports.htm.

Bega Valley Shire Council (2005b) Rural Lands Review, Bega Valley Shire Council, viewed 27 September 2005, .

BVSC—see Bega Valley Shire Council

Department of Primary Industries (Forests NSW) (2004) Ecologically Sustainable Management of State Forests: Forest Agreement for Eden Region, Department of Primary Industries -Forests NSW, viewed 23 May 2006,

Roche, G. (2006) Environmental Services Coordinator, Bega Valley Shire Council, personal communication