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Western Division

Crown lands and the Western Division

Muddy river

Almost half of NSW falls within the Western Division, a vast and sparsely populated region covering more than 32 million hectares in the west of our state. The eastern boundary of the Western Division runs from Mungindi on the Queensland border to the Murray River near Balranald. The Barwon Darling river system, part of the fourth longest river system in the world, acts as the region's arterial lifeblood as its waters flow from Queensland through the centre of the Western Division to the Murray River in the south.

Nearly all the land in the Western Division is held under Western Lands Leases, granted under the Western Lands Act 1901. The primary purpose of the Act is to ensure appropriate land administration and land management in this fragile environment. Its administration is the responsibility of the Minister for Lands and Water. Also, nearly one-third of the area (9.4 million hectares, or 10 per cent of NSW) is unincorporated, meaning it has no formal local government. In these areas, which include the villages of Silverton, Tibooburra, and Milparinka, the Crown land (the Department) assists in co-ordinating various community services.

All of the Crown estate in the Western Division is administered and managed by the Department. The Department plays a vital role in the life of the Western Division, working cooperatively with the community and local government in administering leases and other Crown lands and ensuring sustainable land management activities and programs are implemented and opportunities for regional development on Crown land are maximised.

The NSW outback

The Western Division was generally settled several decades after the more eastern parts of NSW. As a result, it has developed into a region with a distinct character, and with different management systems to the rest of the state.

The Western Division is sparsely populated, with fewer than 2000 primary producer enterprises (virtually all family businesses) and only the mining communities of Broken Hill, Lightning Ridge and Cobar having urban populations greater than 3,000 people. Also, unlike the eastern areas, 95 per cent of the Western Division is Crown land administered by the Department.

The iconic and legendary Barwon Darling River system and Great Artesian Basin are the primary sources of water, sustaining the region, its people and its industries. However, searing summer temperatures and erratic, low rainfall mean that dryland agricultural production in the Western Division is generally less intensive than in the rest of the state. The area was originally settled for grazing and this remains the most widespread land use today.

Native vegetation in the region, 95 per cent of which remains unmodified except for grazing and control of wild fires, is typical of semiarid rangeland environments. Common vegetation communities include saltbush, mallee, mulga, bimble box-cypress pine, belah rosewood, and coolabah-blackbox. These species provide stability to the ecosystem and are the basis for the grazing industry.