Northern Rivers

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Northern Rivers
New South Wales
ByronBay Bay.jpg
View south from Byron Bay, the most easterly point on mainland Australia.
Population296,531 (30 June 2016) [1]
 • Density14.30264/km2 (37.04368/sq mi)
Area20,732.6 km2 (8,004.9 sq mi)
State electorate(s)
Federal Division(s)
Localities around Northern Rivers:
Darling Downs South East Queensland Tasman Sea
New England Northern RiversTasman Sea
New England Mid North Coast Tasman Sea

Northern Rivers is the most north-easterly region of the Australian state of New South Wales, located between 590 kilometres (370 mi) and 820 kilometres (510 mi) north of the state capital, Sydney, and encompasses the catchments and fertile valleys of the Clarence, Richmond and Tweed rivers. It extends from Tweed Heads in the north (adjacent to the Queensland border) to the southern extent of the Clarence river catchment which lies between Grafton and Coffs Harbour, and includes the main towns of Tweed Heads, Byron Bay, Ballina, Kyogle, Lismore, Casino and Grafton. At its most northern point, the region is 102 kilometres (63 mi) south southeast of the Queensland capital, Brisbane.

In the state of New South Wales, Australia, there are many areas which are commonly known by regional names. Regions are areas that share similar characteristics. These characteristics may be natural such as the Murray River, the coastline, or the Snowy Mountains. Alternatively, the characteristics may be cultural, such as a viticulture land use. New South Wales is divided by numerous regional boundaries, based on different characteristics. In many cases boundaries defined by different agencies are coterminous.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.

New South Wales State of Australia

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In December 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.


As with all regions of New South Wales, it has no official status, although state government department offices and local governments in the area work together for purposes such as tourism, education, water catchment management and waste management. [2] [3] This area has a mild, sub-tropical climate. Major industries are agriculture, fisheries, public services (particularly health) and tourism; the region is also popular for niche crops, hobby farmers, and retirees from life in the larger cities.


The Northern Rivers region is bounded by the Tasman Sea to the east, the New England region to the west where the Great Dividing Range forms a mountainous boundary. To the north is the border between New South Wales and Queensland, where the Darling Downs are located to the northwest and South East Queensland directly to the north. The southern boundary is the Dorrigo ranges, which also mark the southern boundary for the Clarence River Basin.

Tasman Sea A marginal sea of the South Pacific between Australia and New Zealand

The Tasman Sea is a marginal sea of the South Pacific Ocean, situated between Australia and New Zealand. It measures about 2,000 km (1,200 mi) across and about 2,800 km (1,700 mi) from north to south. The sea was named after the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, who was the first recorded European to encounter New Zealand and Tasmania. British explorer Captain James Cook later extensively navigated the Tasman Sea in the 1770s as part of his first voyage of exploration.

New England (New South Wales) Region in New South Wales, Australia

New England or New England North West is the name given to a generally undefined region in the north of the state of New South Wales, Australia about 60 kilometres (37 miles) inland, that includes the Northern Tablelands and the North West Slopes regions.

Great Dividing Range mountain range in the Australian states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria

The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest land-based range in the world. It stretches more than 3,500 kilometres (2,175 mi) from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through New South Wales, then into Victoria and turning west, before finally fading into the central plain at the Grampians in western Victoria. The width of the range varies from about 160 km (100 mi) to over 300 km (190 mi). The Greater Blue Mountains Area, Gondwana Rainforests, and Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Areas are located in the range.

The defining characteristic of the region are the fertile valleys of the Clarence, Richmond and Tweed rivers and their sources, hence the region's name; and the region's white sandy beaches.

Clarence River (New South Wales) river in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, Australia

The Clarence River, a mature wave dominated, barrier estuary, is situated in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, Australia.

Richmond River river in New South Wales, Australia

The Richmond River is a river with a mature wave dominated, barrier estuary, situated in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia.

Demography and area

The following local government areas are contained within the region:

Local government areas of New South Wales Wikimedia list article

The local government areas (LGA) of New South Wales in Australia describes the institutions and processes by which areas, cities, towns, municipalities, regions, shires, and districts can manage their own affairs to the extent permitted by the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW).

Population by Local Government Area
Richmond Tweed rankLocal government areaPopulation 30 June 2016 [4] 10 year growth ratePopulation density (people/km2)
1 Tweed Shire 93,45814.671.5
3 City of Lismore 44.0541.734.2
4 Ballina Shire 42,6267.887.9
5 Byron Shire 32,7908.858.0
6 Richmond Valley Council 23,1646.67.6
7 Kyogle Council 9,072-4.42.5
Richmond Tweed245,1648.623.9
2 Clarence Valley Council 51,3674.54.9
Northern Rivers296,5317.914.3

The region is traversed by the Pacific Highway, Bruxner Highway, Clarence Way, Summerland Way and the North Coast Line which links Sydney to Brisbane, Queensland.

Pacific Highway (Australia) highway in New South Wales and Queensland

The Pacific Highway is a 790-kilometre-long (490 mi) national highway and major transport route along the central east coast of Australia, with the majority of it being part of Australia's national route 1.

Bruxner Highway highway in New South Wales

The Bruxner Highway is a 420-kilometre (260 mi)state highway located in New South Wales, Australia. The highway forms an east-west link from the Northern Rivers coast, across the Northern Tablelands in northern New South Wales, close to the border with Queensland.

Summerland Way highway in New South Wales

The Summerland Way is a 199–kilometre state route, designated B91, in New South Wales. It runs generally north from Grafton to the border between NSW and Queensland just west of Mount Lindesay. The road continues from there into Queensland as Mount Lindesay Highway. With the decommissioning of the Mount Lindesay Highway in New South Wales in 1982, the length of the Summerland Way was increased by 9.4 km to the Queensland border. It is sealed for its entire length, although some of the road north of the Lions Road turn-off is narrow and winding. In 1996, the Federal Government committed $20 million toward upgrading the Summerland Way. A $7 million contract to realign 1.2 km at Dourrigan's Gap, approximately 16 km north of Kyogle, was awarded, with work starting in February 2002 and expected to take 12 months to complete.


The northernmost part of the region contains Mount Warning and the surrounding remnants of the long-extinct Tweed Volcano, portions of which extend into southern Queensland. Immediately to the south was formerly the "Big Scrub", an extensive area of subtropical rainforest that was largely cleared for timber-getting and subsequently dairy farming in the nineteenth century. The major towns of the area developed at the navigable heads of the local river systems (Murwillumbah on the Tweed, Lismore on the Wilsons – a tributary of the Richmond – and Grafton on the Clarence) rather than on the coast, in order to be able to transport the valuable timber products (in particular the Australian red cedar, Toona ciliata ) to markets interstate and overseas. [5] Dairy production in the region was extensive up until the 1970s and many towns in the area retain their dairy processing plants ("butter factories") from that era, now largely re-purposed for other uses; dairy cattle were then largely replaced with beef cattle for economic reasons, although some dairy production remains. [6] The north of the region is an important sugarcane growing area with smaller contributions from coffee, bananas and assorted tropical fruit and vegetables. The hills with their red volcanic soils inland from Byron Bay provide Australia's main region for the cultivation of macadamia trees which are used for their production of both raw nuts and macadamia oil. [7] Ballina is a fishing port and was a centre for Australia's east coast offshore prawn industry, although boat numbers have declined in recent years, while additional vessels operate out of Iluka and Yamba. [8] Byron Bay was at one time a centre for commercial whaling as well as mineral extraction via sand mining. Further south, the rural portions of the Clarence river catchment are predominantly used for forestry, agriculture and grazing. [9]

The region as a whole includes a significant component of New South Wales' state forests and national parks, and tourism is important in the north of the region in particular, especially in Tweed Heads, which is effectively a southern extension of the Gold Coast, and Byron Bay, which has developed a reputation as both a centre for relaxation and "alternative" health practices such as yoga, and at certain times of the year, a convenient out-of-town recreation area for partygoers from the major urban centres of south-east Queensland. The village of Nimbin, in the Lismore area, also attracts tourists interested in its reputation for environmental and alternative living initiatives such as permaculture, sustainability, and self-sufficiency, as well as its often-cited counterculture which includes lobbying for the decriminalisation of recreational and medicinal cannabis, as evidenced by its annual MardiGrass celebration. [10] Following some decades of population decline with the reduction of certain primary industry (in particular dairying), the area is now seeing a population increase, in part because of the availability of ex-dairy land for newer niche crops and hobby farms along with an influx of "sea change" and "tree change" families, as well as retirees attracted by the region's subtropical climate and unique combination of lifestyle attributes. [11] [12]

From the 1970s onwards, the northern portion of the region has also been the scene of successful environmental protests aimed at preventing the destruction of the area's significant natural assets, including the 1979 Terania Creek anti-logging protest in the Nightcap National Park which led to the then Wran State Government gazetting remaining rainforest in New South Wales as National Parks, the 2014 Bentley blockade, which protested against exploratory drilling for gas at that location, and flow-on community reaction which eventually led to the New South Wales State Government buying back a coal seam gas exploration licence covering more than 500,000 hectares across the region in October 2015. [13] [14] [15]

Prior to European settlement in the nineteenth century, the region was home to the Aboriginal Bundjalung people (including the Widjabul of the Lismore region, the Arakwal of the Byron Bay area, and the Kalibal and Minjungbal of the Tweed and Queensland border) and the Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl peoples to the south, which collectively still form a component of the local population, [16] [17] and have been successful in some native title land claims on behalf of local Bandjalang and Yaegl communities. [18]


The region contains the Southern Cross University, which is headquartered at Lismore and has campuses in Tweed Heads and Coffs Harbour. [19] The North Coast Institute of TAFE has campuses at Lismore, Ballina, Casino, Grafton, Kingscliff, Maclean, Trenayr and Wollongbar. [20]

Sport and Recreation

There are several local sporting competitions, including:

The region has also produced several famous sportspeople, including:

Sporting Venues

Some sporting venues on the Northern Rivers includes:


The Northern Rivers has its own orchestra based in Murwillumbah the Northern Rivers Symphony Orchestra as well as the Lismore Symphony Orchestra. Murwillumbah, Lismore and Grafton all have regional art galleries; that at Murwillumbah (the Tweed Regional Gallery) includes the Margaret Olley Art Centre named after the prominent locally-born Australian artist Margaret Olley and includes examples of her work plus a recreation of areas of Olley's famous home studio, principally the Hat Factory and the Yellow Room. [21]

The region has a history of Italian settlement. The locality of New Italy was settled in 1882 by Italian pioneers who attempted to cultivate the area's difficult interior, while additional phases of migration followed in the 1920s and again with the post-World War II influx of European migrants anxious to escape their war-ravaged country. [22] They typically leased hilly land from local farmers on which they cultivated bananas, moving to other trades when the local banana industry declined when better transport links facilitated the supply of cheaper competition from Queensland.

Principal towns

Boats on the Richmond River at Ballina Boats on the Ricmond River at Ballina.jpg
Boats on the Richmond River at Ballina

See also

Related Research Articles

Lismore, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

Lismore is a city in northeastern New South Wales, Australia and the main population centre in the City of Lismore local government area; it is also a regional centre in the Northern Rivers region of the State. According to the 2016 Australian Census, the population in the Lismore urban centre was 27,569.

Ballina, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

Ballina is a town in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia, and the seat of the Ballina Shire local government area. Ballina's urban population at June 2018 was 26,381. The town lies on the Richmond River and serves as a gateway to Byron Bay.

Nimbin, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

Nimbin is a village in the Northern Rivers area of the Australian state of New South Wales, approximately 30 km (19 mi) north of Lismore, 33 km (21 mi) northeast of Kyogle, and 70 km (43 mi) west of Byron Bay.

Tweed Heads, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

Tweed Heads is a town in New South Wales. It is located on the Tweed River in north-eastern New South Wales, Australia, in Tweed Shire. Tweed Heads is located next to the border with Queensland, adjacent to its "twin town" of Coolangatta, which is a suburb of the Gold Coast. It is often referred to as a town where people can change time zones – even celebrate New Year twice within an hour – simply by crossing the street, due to its proximity to the Queensland border, and the fact that New South Wales observes daylight saving whereas Queensland does not.

Murwillumbah Town in New South Wales, Australia

Murwillumbah is a town in far north-eastern New South Wales, Australia, in the Tweed Shire, on the Tweed River, 848 km north-east of Sydney, 13 km south of the Queensland border and 132 km south of Brisbane. At the 2016 census, Murwillumbah had a population of 9,245 people. The town's name is often abbreviated to M'bah or Murbah.

Yamba, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

Yamba is a locality in northern New South Wales, Australia at the mouth of the Clarence River. The first European to visit the area was Matthew Flinders, who stopped in Yamba Bay for six days in July 1799.

Electoral district of Ballina state electoral district of New South Wales, Australia

Ballina is an electoral district of the Legislative Assembly in the Australian state of New South Wales.

Electoral district of Lismore state electoral district of New South Wales, Australia

Lismore is an electoral district of the Legislative Assembly in the Australian state of New South Wales. It is represented by Janelle Saffin of the Labor Party.

North Coast railway line, New South Wales railway line in New South Wales, Australia

The North Coast Line is the primary rail route in the Mid North Coast and Northern Rivers regions of New South Wales, Australia, and forms a major part of the Sydney–Brisbane rail corridor.

The Summerland Australian Football League or SAFL was an Australian rules football competition in the Northern Rivers and New England region of New South Wales, Australia, in existence from 1984 to 2011.

Group 1 Rugby League was a rugby league competition held in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia, run under the auspices of the Country Rugby League. The group, however, still runs a junior rugby league competition. When the Group 18-Gold Coast competition dissolved in 2005, the New South Wales sides joined together with Group 1 to form a divisional league, Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL). Group 18 also still holds its own individual junior rugby league competition.

Group 18 is the name of a junior rugby league competition on the far north coast of New South Wales, Australia. Currently, the group has no senior competition. Prior to 2005, there was a joint Gold Coast-Group 18 competition which fielded teams from both the Queensland and New South Wales sides of the border. With the Burleigh Bears joining the Queensland Cup in 1997 and the Tweed Heads Seagulls joining them in 2003, the combined competition started to lose some of its lustre. In 2005, it was dissolved with the remaining Queensland teams forming a dedicated Gold Coast competition and the NSW teams joining an expanded Group 1 competition, now named Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League. Both Group 1 and Group 18 run junior competitions.

Murwillumbah railway line former railway line

The Murwillumbah railway line is a mostly disused railway line in far north-eastern New South Wales, Australia. The line ran from Casino to Lismore, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah, and opened in 1894. It is one of only two branches off the North Coast line,. Despite opposition from local residents to the closure of the line, train services to the region were permanently suspended in April 2004.

The Rainforest Way is a circular series of tourist drives that extends through South East Queensland, Australia across the border into the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.

ABC North Coast is an ABC Local Radio station based in Lismore and broadcasting to the Northern Rivers region in New South Wales. This includes the towns and cities of Grafton, Ballina, Casino and Murwillumbah.

Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League

The Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) is a rugby league competition run in the far north of New South Wales, Australia. It is run under the auspices of the Country Rugby League. The league formed in 2005 as an extended Group 1 Rugby League competition, featuring teams from Group 18 Rugby League. Prior to this, teams from Group 18 played in a competition with teams from the Gold Coast region of Queensland. Both Group 1 and Group 18 continue to run junior competitions.

The Queensland Amateur Football Association (B) South is an Australian rules football competition containing five clubs based in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales and the southern area of the Gold Coast in Queensland. The league was initially known as the Summerland Australian Football League and was established in 1984 as a New South Wales-only competition involving clubs from Ballina, Byron Bay, Goonellabah and Lismore. The competition saw several clubs from the regions of the Northern Rivers, New England and the Mid North Coast come and go between the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2010 the league allowed entry to its first Queensland-based team, Coolangatta-Tweed Heads. In 2012 the remaining clubs joined the AFL Queensland umbrella and rebranded to the QAFA (B) South.

New South Wales Country Rugby Union

The New South Wales Country Rugby Union, or NSWCRU, is the governing body for the sport of rugby union within most of New South Wales in Australia.

The Yaygir, Yuraygir, or Yaegl, were an Australian Aboriginal tribe who traditionally lived in and around Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.

The Far North Coast District Rugby Union, or FNCRU, is the governing body for the sport of rugby union within the District of Far North Coast in Australia. It is a member of the New South Wales Country Rugby Union.


  1. "3218.0 Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2016 (Urban Centre)". Australian Bureau of Statistics. August 2017. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  2. Northern Rivers Tourism. "Who we are" . Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  3. "Northern Rivers ACE Colleges" . Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  4. "3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2016". Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  5. Traces magazine September 2013: Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum :: Cedar and steamers
  6. Richmond River Historical Society: Dairying
  7. Macadamia History
  8. Harrison, John. A Socio-economic Evaluation of the Commercial Fishing Industry in the Ballina, Clarence and Coffs Harbour Regions. Professional Fishermen’s Association Inc., 2010; available online at
  9. Clarence Valley Council: economic profile
  10. Nimbin MardiGrass official site
  11. Regional Development Australia: Northern Rivers Community Profile
  12. Bock, Karl & Brunckhorst, David (undated but post-2006). Identifying socio-economic trends for the Northern Rivers Region of New South Wales. Institute for Rural Futures/University of New England, 25 pp. Available online at
  13. The Northern Star: The battle to save Terania Creek rainforest
  14. ABC News: Bentley gas protest makes history
  15. ABC News: Lismore coal seam gas licence PEL 445 bought back by NSW Government for $1 million
  16. Tenterfield Shire Council: Bundjalung people
  17. Arakwal – people of Byron Bay (official site)
  18. The following four successful native title claims in the Northern Rivers region are recorded on the National Native Title Register as at August 2018: National Native Title Register Details: NCD2013/001 – Bandjalang People #1; National Native Title Register Details: NCD2013/002 – Bandjalang People #2; National Native Title Register Details: NCD2015/002 – Yaegl People #1; and National Native Title Register Details: Yaegl People #2 (Part B).
  19. Southern Cross University (3 May 2011). "About SCU – Lismore" . Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  20. North Coast Institute of TAFE. "Campuses" . Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  21. Tweed Regional Gallery: Margaret Olley Art Centre
  22. The Northern Star: Italian families settle on the Richmond

Coordinates: 29°09′S153°07′E / 29.150°S 153.117°E / -29.150; 153.117