Byron Shire Council Byron Shire Sustainable Agriculture Strategy—
A Greenprint for a Sustainable Future An active and diverse agricultural sector is a significant economic, social and environmental activity in Byron Shire because it provides:
•Food, fibre, timber, oils and essences
•Recreation and tourism opportunities
•Income to producers, employment and a multiplier
effect for the community
•Enhancement and protection of biodiversity and
•Constraints on development
•Self reliance and security in food, fibre and other products locally and for Australia
The importance of Agriculture to Byron Shire
Evolving And Changing Patterns Of Agriculture In Byron Shire
Aboriginal occupation of the Byron Shire area extends back at least 22,000 years,
and the Arakawal people enjoyed a healthy lifestyle supported by the diverse and
abundant resources available. Clearing of the “Big Scrub” rainforest for timber began
around 1849. From the late 1870’s onwards, extensive areas of forested land were
cleared for agricultural production, particularly on fertile alluvial soils.
Dairying was the major land-use from the 1880’s, and pastures of clover, paspalum
and kikuyu were sown on cleared land. Droughts, ticks, spread of weeds and
economic factors resulted in industry decline and eventual subdivision of large dairy
properties. By the late 1970’s there were only a handful of dairies operating.
From about 1910, the banana industry was a major form of land-use in the area,
and by the 1920’s production reached a peak where few north or east facing slopes
did not have a banana plantation. By 1927 the Bunchy Top virus had virtually
cleared the slopes of bananas and although the banana industry is still productive, it
has never again reached its former extent .
Today sugarcane is grown in the lower reaches of the Shire on the heavier clays and
peats, with some grazing on drained swamp and floodplain soils. There is a little
dairying on the lighter alluvials further inland. Bananas and subtropical orchard crops
(passionfruit, avocados, mangoes, limes and custard apples) are grown on north-
facing hill slopes, the orchards on the deep and free-draining soils, and bananas
mainly on less fertile soils.
Animal production, primarily beef, remains the largest user of land. Of the 18,744 ha
of total agriculture holdings in the Shire only 2827 ha (ABS 2000/01) is used for
horticulture and other crops. The Shire is also home to two significant abattoirs—
Sunnybrand in Byron Bay and the Northern Cooperative Meat Company’s specialist
pig abattoir at Booyong.
Various horticulture has been practiced in the Shire for decades. Mature horticulture
industries include macadamias, avocadoes, bananas and vegetable production. While
the industries have well-developed existing markets and production systems, it is
increasingly important for these industries to identify market opportunities to remain
competitive. For example, the avocado industry has concentrated on the Hass
variety and the banana industry has introduced varieties such as the ‘Ladyfinger’ to
secure a niche market.
Crops such as low-chill stone fruit and hydroponic leafy vegetables have been grown
commercially in the region for 10-20 years and are still developing. New and
emerging enterprises include coffee, native foods, bamboo and herbs.
There are a number of established organic producers across a range of enterprises,
including macadamias, coffee, fruit, herbs, native foods and vegetables. Other
production systems, such as permaculture design, are practiced on a smaller scale.
Agriculture remains a major land use, but is under pressure for sub-division and
increasing land values. Byron Shire’s Sustainable Agriculture Strategy has been
developed to ensure agriculture stays a part of our landscape, economy and
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