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Our Region

Our Region Map SouthCoast

THE South Coast NRM region of WA covers a land area of more than 8.6 million ha, extending to the three-nautical mile limit which includes approximately 1 million ha of State waters.

It is made up of the lower Great Southern, upper Great Southern and South Eastern statistical divisions.

Due to the location of numerous islands, State waters extend up to 70 km off-shore, most notably to the east of Esperance. 

The region includes the catchments of all southerly-flowing rivers, from Walpole in the west to beyond Cape Arid in the east, as well as some internally drained areas north east of Albany and north of Esperance.



The unusual Balancing Rock, Porongurup, is a 6m high granite boulder reportedly weighing around 186 tonnes yet rests on a base of just 1.21sqm.

OUR region began to form 100 million years ago when Antarctica broke away from Australia.  Since then, new rivers have been draining into the Southern Ocean, creating a series of catchments with unique soils and landforms.

During the Eocene period, about 60 million years ago, the ocean covered much of the South Coast region leaving behind up to 50m of silty sediment.  At this time most, if not all, of the current mountain peaks were isolated islands where unique flora evolved.

Today, it is the unique biological and landscape features and significant cultural and pioneering heritage, which make the South Coast region one of the most spectacular in Australia.

The first known people living on the South Coast were the Noongars (the collective name for the Aboriginal people of the southwest corner of WA).  Their lands extended to the west of a line drawn from Jurien Bay on the west coast to Esperance on the south coast.  Noongars were divided into 13 socio-linguistic groups, each with access to different ecological habitats in accordance with a long tradition of territorial occupation. Our region encompasses five of the 13 socio-linguistic groups - Kaneang, Minang, Koreng, Wudjari and Njunga.

European settlement of the region began on January 21, 1827 when Major Edmund Lockyer, named the military outpost on King George Sound, Frederickstown, in honour of Prince Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany.

The first governor and commander in-chief of Western Australia, Admiral Sir James Stirling visited Frederickstown in 1831 and renamed it Albany shortly afterwards.

The Old Farm, Strawberry Hill on Middleton Road was the first farm to be established in WA and the former home of Albany's first Government Resident, Sir Richard Spencer who emigrated with his wife and nine children from Lyme Regis, Dorset, England in 1833.

Although Strawberry Hill thrived, many other early farms failed due to mineral deficiencies in the soil and the presence of plants poisonous to stock.  During the mid-19th century, Albany became a gateway to the Eastern Goldfields and for decades was Australia's only deep-water port, giving it a place of prominence on shipping services between Britain and its colonies.

However, the construction of Fremantle Harbour near Perth in 1893 saw Albany's importance as a port rapidly decline, so the town turned primarily to agriculture, timber and later whaling to support its economy. Albany also has an important role in the Anzac legend as it was where the fleet which comprised of approximately 20,000 Australians and 10,000 New Zealanders assembled and departed for Egypt on November 1, 1914.

reas around Esperance were opened-up for grazing in 1863 and the town's prominence as a commercial port rose during the Kalgoorlie gold rush of the 1890s. Farming increased in 1949 when soils deficient in phosphorus, copper and zinc were treated with superphosphate and trace elements and large tracts of land were cleared; Federal and State government's advocated the clearing of 1 million acres a year during the 1960s.

Around 70 per cent of the rural landscape is made up of farms, with a strong economic reliance on agricultural production and related service industries.  In recent years, plantations and farm forestry are beginning to alter the landscape. In parts of the region, there is a trend to increase the diversity and resilience of land management systems both in agriculture and forestry.

Our region is renowned for its spectacular scenery, which incorporates tall forests in the west, all of southern WA's mountain peaks, biodiversity-rich waterways and wetlands and the outstanding southern coastline, with its many offshore islands, countless inlets and estuaries.

More than 20 per cent of the State's floristic diversity exists within the region, including numerous threatened flora and fauna species, while certain areas are recognised as being in the world's 34 biodiversity hotspots. Contained in the network of conservation reserves are the Fitzgerald River and Stirling Range national parks and the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve.

Our shoreline and marine environments contain much of the region's ecologically intact ecosystems, while more than 70 per cent of the coastal vegetation corridor is currently under some form of conservation management.  

There is the potential for significant nickel production at Ravensthorpe and haematite (iron) extraction at Wellstead, both in the east of the region. Other mines extract lithium and tantalum, which is found in the capacitors of many electrical devices.  Basic raw materials including agricultural lime, gypsum, dolomite, silica sand, spongolite and gravel are significant resources and mined from many parts of the region.

Regional Administration

THIRTEEN local governments form the region - the City of Albany and the shires of Denmark, Plantagenet, Cranbrook, Broomehill-Tambellup, Gnowangerup, Jerramungup, Ravensthorpe and Esperance and parts of the shires of Kojonup, Manjimup, Lake Grace and Kent.

These local governments have varying levels of involvement with natural resource management according to their ratepayer demands and capabilities. For most, their involvement is strongest at a sub-regional or local level and includes some administrative or funding support for the employment of NRM officers or for the direct support or management of priority projects in their areas.

The Shire of Denmark and City of Albany have been active players in the identification and management of regionally and locally significant vegetation.  The shires of Jerramungup, Cranbrook and Gnowangerup have a long history of involvement with many aspects of NRM and continue to strongly support the Fitzgerald Biosphere Group, Gillamii Centre and North Stirlings Pallinup Natural Resources Inc., respectively.

The coastal authorities, the City of Albany and shires of Denmark, Jerramungup, Ravensthorpe and Esperance, were instrumental in the development of Southern Shores the strategy for management of the coastal zone of the region.

Most local government authorities have indicated a willingness to increase their involvement at regional and sub-regional levels, but need financial and technical support to achieve these goals, as most have large areas to support but only a small rate-payer base.


APPROXIMATELY 67 per cent (45,782) of the 67,827 people (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006) live in relatively urban areas such as Esperance, Denmark and Mt Barker and Albany, while more than a third of residents live on farms or in small rural towns.

Some inland towns such as Cranbrook and Broomehill – Tambellup, have low but stable populations, while declining populace is evident at Gnowangerup and Jerramungup. Populations in Mt Barker, Denmark, Albany and Esperance are on the rise, while Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun experienced high growth around 2006-2007 with the opening of the nickel operation. Although most of this population left when operations closed in 2009, reopening of the mine in 2010 has seen numbers increase.

Compared with the rest of the State, our region has more school children and retired people but fewer people between 16 and 64 years of age than the WA average (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006).  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2006, there were approximately 1,854 Aboriginal people living in the region compared to 1,741 in 2001.

About 17 per cent of the workforce in the region is directly employed in agriculture, forestry and fisheries (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006).  A number of employees in other sectors depend indirectly on agriculture, while urban businesses report buying patterns are directly related to seasonal conditions and commodity prices.


OUR region makes a significant contribution to the WA economy, with Albany and Esperance being the largest business and service centres - many businesses have been established to service the needs of the timber, agricultural, mining and fishing industries.

Primary industries include tree farming, broad acre cropping, wool, livestock, horticulture and fishing, while manufacturing is based largely on the supply of equipment and machinery to agriculture and the processing of farming commodities.

Tourism and timber industries add to employment and investment, while mining occurs more in the eastern part of the region.

Elements which make the region innovative and adaptable include:

  • Strong community organisations and existing capacity for innovation in land, water and coastal management

  • Support for new industries including those using on native plants which can provide both ecological and economic outcomes

  • An increasing recognition of the role of Aboriginal people in sustainable land management

  • The development or trial of various farming systems and market-based instruments to encourage more sustainable use of natural resources

  • South Coast NRM region boundaries

The region's boundaries do not coincide with the jurisdictional borders for Local Government or State Government agencies, but are based on water catchment peripheries, as many management issues are related to catchment hydrology and its effects on water, vegetation and land condition.

In the north-east, catchment boundaries are difficult to define.  South Coast NRM and the Rangelands NRM Coordinating Group have realigned their borders to match the boundary of the Shire of Esperance and part of the Shire of Ravensthorpe.  This change means the shires of Esperance and Ravensthorpe only need to be involved in South Coast NRM's planning and implementation processes, rather than two groups.

This boundary modification has created an increase in the coastal and marine zone which includes all the islands of the Recherche Archipelago. South Coast NRM and Rangelands NRM Coordinating Group already cooperate on cross-regional issues and this arrangement will continue into the future.

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Contact details:
Tel: (08) 9845 8537
Fax: (08) 9845 8538

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Opening hours
Mon – Fri 9am – 3pm
Contact details:
Tel: (08) 9845 8537
Fax: (08) 9845 8538

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