Hunter subregion

Google Earth image of the Hunter River west of Muswellbrook

This bioregional assessment helps us understand how coal seam gas and coal mining development could affect water resources and water-dependent assets in the Hunter subregion, which is part of the Northern Sydney Basin bioregion. It identifies where potential impacts might occur, as well as the areas that are unlikely to be affected.

About the subregion

Along the coast, the Hunter subregion extends north from the northern edge of Broken Bay on the New South Wales Central Coast to just north of Newcastle. The subregion is bordered in the west and north–west by the Great Dividing Range and in the north by the towns of Scone and Muswellbrook. The Hunter River is the major river in the subregion, rising in the Barrington Tops and Liverpool Ranges and draining south‑west to Lake Glenbawn before heading east where it enters the Tasman Sea at Newcastle. The subregion also includes smaller catchments along the central coast, including the Macquarie and Tuggerah lakes catchments.

The landscape is mostly agricultural (livestock grazing and vineyards), however, a significant part of the landscape is covered by native forests and woodlands which have not been cleared since European settlement. Water for major towns is extracted from local rivers and groundwater systems and there are several major dams in the subregion.

The Hunter subregion includes many areas of great ecological significance, both nationally and internationally, including the Hunter Estuary wetland. The subregion is home to a number of ecological communities, and plant and animal species which are listed as endangered or critically endangered under New South Wales and Commonwealth legislation.

Coal mining and coal seam gas operations

The Hunter subregion is mostly underlain by rocks of the geological Sydney Basin. Coal and coal seam gas resources in the Hunter subregion are contained within the Hunter, Newcastle and Western Coalfields of the Sydney Basin. There is a long history of coal mining in the Hunter region which has been extensively mined (both open cut and underground). Potentially there are more than 40 new or expanding coal mines in the subregion. There is no commercial coal seam gas production at present or considered likely in the foreseeable future.

About the bioregional assessment

The bioregional assessment for the Hunter subregion involves compiling background information, a water-dependent asset register and a data register. Importantly, the assessment will also provide the first regional-scale information about the cumulative impacts of coal mining development on water resources and water-dependent assets in the Hunter region.

As part of the bioregional assessment, an outcome synthesis will be produced for the Hunter subregion.

Last updated:
28 September 2016
Did you know?
  • Area: 17,045 square kilometres
  • Population: more than 800,000
  • Climate: subtropical (eastern part) and temperate (western part)
  • Annual rainfall: 793 millimetres.