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Coal River Valley

Geography and History

The Coal River Valley is situated between the townships of Cambridge and Colebrook in the City of Clarence/Municipality of Southern Midlands and is a prime agricultural area.

The Coal River Valley was developed in the early 1800’s predominantly for wheat growing and later expanding to include wool, fat lambs, beef and cropping of oats and barley. Agriculture slumped in the 1960’s along with the 1967 bush fires causing substantial damage to areas of the catchment. Pressure for increased water availability for farming increased in the 1970’s which led to the development of the South East Irrigation Scheme (SEIS). Agriculture subsequently intensified, introducing irrigated cropping and animal grazing enterprises and allowing expansion of existing ones.

The Coal River Valley has been extensively cleared for grazing and development for intensive agriculture which has been stimulated by the development of irrigation infrastructure. The construction of the Craigbourne Dam in 1986 as part of the South-East Irrigation Scheme and the construction of the Daisy Bank Dam in 2000-2001 to feed Hobart water into stage 2 of the Scheme has resulted in changes in land use to include many high value crops such as perennial fruit crops, vegetables, poppies, turf, wine grapes, poultry industries and specialist seeds. The Coal River Valley has also become an attractive lifestyle option for hobby farming and suburban development.

The combination of climate, soils and an assured water supply has attracted entrepreneurs to the region with new investment and expertise in intensive horticulture.

Agricultural Production & Value to Economy

A survey undertaken by the CRPA in November 2008 highlighted the significant contribution of intensive agricultural activity in the South-East to the Tasmanian economy. At that time around $100 million had been invested in the South-East over the previous 20 years. Stone fruit and fresh vegetables together comprised nearly 70% of the total. Wine grapes represented another 15%. Over the next five years to 2013, over $15 million of additional investment is projected with fresh vegetables and wine grapes accounting for nearly 55% of the increase.

The 2008 value of production was estimated at $83.06 million in 2008 (Davey & Maynard report). As existing ventures reach harvestable stage and new ventures come on stream, the value is expected to increase by 40% by 2013. Fresh vegetables, wine grapes and stone fruit are the most highly valued crops representing over 90% of the total. Over the five years to 2013, the increase in the value of production from wine grapes is projected to be very significant.

In 2008, $27 million annually was pumped into the local economy from wages paid in the district (720 FTE’s). Stone fruit, fresh vegetables and grapes collectively account for over $25 million or 93% of the total. By 2013 the total value of wages was projected to increase by 27% to $35 million (913 FTE’s). Increases in fresh vegetables and wine grapes account for 82% of the increase.

The survey estimated the area of intensive agricultural activity at 2,814 hectares. Cereals and peas (processing) occupy 1,079 hectares or 38% of the total (Figure 5). Stone fruit, wine grapes and fresh vegetables (mainly Houstons Farm) collectively occupy 962 hectares or 34% of the total. Over the next five years, the area of intensive crops is projected to increase by 88% to 5,290 hectares, the main increases in terms of absolute area being peas, cereals, poppies and other.