Photo: Gordon Smith, NSW-Queensland Border Gordon's caption reads:
A shot grabbed from the driving seat (bug splats on the windscreen and all) just before entering Queensland at Hungerford. I'd not previously seen a state border entry point where you have to open the gate yourself to get in - or is it to prevent Queenslanders from getting out?
Earlier in December, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released demographic data for NSW as at 30 June 2006, broken up by local government area.
The data provides some interesting insights into continuing change across the state, so I thought that I should provide some analysis. To keep things simple, I thought it best to do a number of posts, including some on my other blogs.
I know that statistical data can be eye glazing stuff, especially for readers with little or no knowledge of NSW. To help you here, I will provide some background information on areas as we go along.
Just to set the broad scene, the state as a whole presently has an area of 809,444 km² (312,528 sq miles), so it's pretty big.
For comparative purposes, the largest US states are Alaska (570,374 sq miles), Texas (261,914 sq miles) and California (155,973 sq miles). For another comparison, NSW at 809,444 km² is far larger than Germany (357,021 sqk), France (547,030 sqk), Italy (301,230 sqk) or the UK (244,820 sqk).
Travelling by road, It would take you more than 15 hours to drive the 1,300 plus kilometres from Tween Heads on the Queensland border to the Victorian border. The road distance east west from coast to border is around 1,100 km. This size explains why most people living in NSW have in fact seen very little of the state, especially outside the narrow coastal strip.
Again to put things in perspective, the area that I write about most on the New England Australia bog, the area that has long sought self-government in its own right, covers around 166,000 sqk in the north-east of the present state of NSW. Again, not small, if far more manageable.
In geographic terms, NSW can be thought of in terms of four north-south zones.
To the east fronting the Pacific Ocean is a long coastal strip in which the great bulk of the NSW population now huddles, looking out to the sea. This strip is generally very narrow, with the exception of the larger Hunter and Northern Rivers areas in New England.
Until quite recently, the major economic activities along the coastal strip outside Sydney were dairying and timber milling, along with holiday activities often servicing the inland marketplace. Wine was important in the Hunter Valley, while great coal deposits provided the base for mining and then heavy industrial development in the lower Hunter and the Illawarra around Wollongong.
To the west, the Great Dividing Range is separated from the coastal strip by major escarpments. The majority of NSW's National Parks are found along the escarpment, extending inland from there.
While we talk about the Great Diving Range as a range, it is really a series of generally east-west sloping tablelands. The New England Tablelands is the largest of these and also Australia's largest tableland, stretching from the Hunter Valley into southern Queensland. The tablelands include and are separated by higher ranges, including the ski fields of the Snowy Mountains in Southern NSW.
The Ranges are the source of both the NSW coastal rivers and most of the inland streams that make up the Murray-Darling River system, Australia's largest. This is traditional sheep and cattle grazing country. This, along with timber and in some parts orcharding formed the core of the rural economy.
The Great Diving Range, along with the western slopes and plains, is mining country. Coal does extend north from the Hunter Valley onto New England's western slopes, but is still mainly coastal.
Mineral deposits - gold, tin, precious stones, lead, zinc etc - provided a base for a series of rushes. This is the world of bushrangers, of wealth created in Sydney, Melbourne and London, of early Chinese immigration.
To the west, the Ranges phase into the next zone, the Western Slopes. Here the west-flowing rivers have created a series of valleys separated by mountain spurs extending out into the plains. The majority of NSW's great storage dams, those that feed irrigation in the Murray-Darling basin, can be found along the Western Slopes.
This is farming country marked by multi-coloured fields and grain silos.
To the west again, the Western Slopes merge imperceptibly into the flat and increasingly arid Western Plains that stretch into the heat-hazed distance.
Always sparsely settled, this was grazing and mining country. However, irrigation has allowed the broader spread of agriculture in particular patches. Today, the western slopes and plains are NSW's food bowl as well as the source of our cotton, something that became problematical during the recent long drought.
The state's size makes for considerable variation in climate at macro and micro level.
In broad terms, temperatures fall as we move from the coastal strip onto the Tablelands and then rise progressively as we move out onto the Western Slopes and Plains. They also fall from north to south. Average rainfall falls from east to west and also from north to south.
I think that that is enough to set the broad scene. I will flesh it out as we go along.