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Climate change in the Central West and Orana

Key points

  • The Central West and Orana region contains rich soils, mountains and vast plains which form a mosaic of beautiful landscapes, ranging from the Western Plains to the Central Tablelands. 
  • The region is at the heart of NSW with access to much of NSW and to the larger cities on the east coast and beyond. These connections – along with domestic and international supply chains to the north, south and west – create a diverse economy with major industries in agribusiness, mining, renewable energy production and tourism. 
  • Climate change is affecting the Central West and Orana region, particularly through increasing temperatures. Projections show temperatures are expected to keep rising, rainfall patterns will change, there will be more hot days and heatwaves, and fire weather will increase. 
  • The NSW Government is helping the Central West and Orana region adapt to climate change through the Enabling Regional Adaptation work. This is being achieved by working with state and local government stakeholders to identify key aspects of the Central West and Orana region that are vulnerable to climate impacts, along with challenges and opportunities to adapt.

​Importance of the Central West and Orana region 

The Central West and Orana region is the second largest region in NSW. Geographically, the region is at the heart of NSW and includes the cities of Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo, as well as the regional centres of Lithgow, Mudgee, Cowra, Parkes and Forbes. 

The region contains important environments including the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area, and the internationally significant Macquarie Marshes, which support a range of species including migratory birds. 

The Central West and Orana region is one of NSW’s most diverse regional economies, producing 20% of NSW’s mining output. Tourism is a major industry of the region, with its vibrant regional cities, historic towns and villages, Taronga Western Plains Zoo, and Australia’s first Dark Sky Park in the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran. The region also supports industries in renewable energy, health, education, agribusiness and manufacturing. 

These environmental, economic and cultural values are just some aspects of the region which have been identified as being highly vulnerable to climate change. Climate change is already affecting the Central West and Orana region, particularly through increased temperatures. The impacts of this can be seen through recent prolonged drought and the widespread bushfires of 2019–2020. 

How the Central West and Orana region is affected by climate change

Central West and Orana climate change projections and regional impacts infographic

Based on long-term (1910–2011) observations, temperatures have been increasing in the Central West and Orana since about 1970, with higher temperatures experienced in recent decades.

The region is projected to continue to warm during the near future (2020–2039) and far future (2060–2079), compared with recent years (1990–2009). The warming is projected to be on average about 0.7°C in the near future, increasing to about 2.1°C in the far future. The number of hot days is projected to increase and the number of cold nights is projected to decrease.

The warming trend projected for the region is large compared to natural variability in temperature and is similar to the rate of warming projected for other regions of NSW.

The Central West and Orana currently experiences considerable rainfall variability across regions, seasons and from year-to-year and this variability is also reflected in the projections.

Spring and summer will experience the greatest changes in maximum temperatures, with temperatures increasing by 2.5°C by 2070. Increased maximum temperatures are known to impact human health through heat stress and increasing the number of heatwave events.

Rainfall is projected to decrease in spring and to increase in autumn. Severe and average fire weather is projected to increase. Severe fire weather is projected to decrease in autumn in the near future.

Detailed information on the projected climate changes for the Central West and Orana region can be found in the Central West and Orana Climate change snapshot or explored further through the interactive climate projections map.

Adapting to changes in the Central West and Orana region

To help Central West and Orana adapt to the impacts of climate change, local government stakeholders were brought together in 2016 as part of the NSW Government’s Enabling Regional Adaptation work.

These participants collaboratively identified how different economic, sociocultural and environmental aspects (also known as systems) in the region are vulnerable to climate change. For each of these systems, the vision for a climate-resilient future was identified, and opportunities for action were co-designed. These opportunities can be implemented by state and local government, businesses or community groups.

The Western Enabling Regional Adaptation – Central West and Orana region report provides a resource for state and local government and regional communities to understand how climate change will continue to impact the region and our values. It also provides potential opportunities for governments, businesses and communities to adapt to climate change.

The following opportunities for action reflect potential options for state and local government, businesses or community groups to implement. This list has been summarised from the Western Enabling Regional Adaptation – Central West and Orana region report. These opportunities provide a starting point for action, and will be reviewed and updated to ensure they continue to reflect climate trends, key vulnerabilities and community values.

Small communities

Vision 

Settlements of up to 5,000 people are strong and resilient to the effects of climate change. Small communities are cohesive, actively engaged in their own governance, have more employment opportunities, and have a strong regional identity. 

Opportunities for action 

  • Provide incentives and policy initiatives to encourage the growth of small communities and a range of business development opportunities. 
  • Create more tourism opportunities for the region. 
  • Develop local leaders through a mentoring program for Aboriginal young people. 
  • Provide opportunities for the region’s arts and cultural scene to adapt and grow. 

Transport

Vision 

People and freight move within the region safely, efficiently, cost-effectively and sustainably. Regional freight networks are efficient and resilient to climate impacts, and provide easy access to alternative transport modes. The region benefits socially and economically from new infrastructures, such as regional air transport, inland rail and Golden Highway upgrades. The region’s roads are safer through appropriate and sustainable engineering solutions. 

Opportunities for action 

  • Encourage transformation by shifting freight from road to new rail. 
  • Support transition by improving transport links and accessibility. 
  • Promote smart and low emission alternative technologies. 
  • Encourage local councils to share resources to fund upgrades and maintenance. 

Water

Vision

The water system is transformed to secure water supplies to townships and agriculture while protecting ecosystems. The region becomes a leader in water management and water security through the use of ecosensitive infrastructure, water harvesting in settlements, and re-use of water in agricultural production.

Opportunities for action

  • Encourage efficient water management and security through improved economic instruments, technical innovation and environmental monitoring.
  • Improve water security for small towns through enhanced regional infrastructure.

Regional knowledge

Vision

Publicly available standard data and modelling is available to support decision making, analysis, monitoring and evaluation of change and the service needs of the community. Regional communities are connected to services and employment through a range of digital, flexible, scalable and modular information platforms. The economy is strengthened by sharing innovations, and the environment is protected by using robust knowledge to inform management.

Opportunities for action

  • Increase community knowledge by sharing data. 
  • Enable place-based sharing economies and data use for greater self-sufficiency. 
  • Establish regional bodies and develop agreed databases. 
  • Adopt a monitoring and evaluating method for emergency management. 

Mixed farming

Vision  

A non-irrigated agricultural system is thriving, incorporating crop and livestock enterprises. The regional economy is supported by diversified and viable agricultural industries. Farmers’ livelihoods and agricultural land is protected, and production systems are appropriately valued and made sustainable.

Opportunities for action 

  • Support transition of farming systems, and adoption of new technologies or diversification to new industries. 
  • Improve business modelling for efficient agricultural supply chains. 
  • Identify and protect regionally important agricultural lands. 
  • Promote integrated renewable energy systems on farms. 
  • Diversify the region by identifying new industries that are suitable for the region. 

Horticulture

Vision 

Woody perennial tree and vine crop production in primarily irrigated systems is adapted to a changing climate through innovation and diversification. Regional horticulture produces locally adapted crops using innovative farming and sophisticated irrigation systems. A broad and diverse workforce and new technologies help establish the region as an alternative foods capital.

Opportunities for action 

  • Promote and develop new horticultural industries. 
  • Improve workforce training and rapid transport networks for better marketing arrangements. 
  • Expand the alternative farming sector. 
  • Diversify crops to capitalise on the changing climate. 

Energy

Vision 

The region’s energy production comes from a diverse range of renewable and non-renewable sources. Decentralised energy production is reliable, safe and sustainable. Policies support the innovation and adoption of clean energy technologies, while the viability of the agricultural sector is enhanced through innovation and adoption of clean energy technologies.

Opportunities for action 

  • Establish policy and legislation that supports equitable community-based ownership of energy generation and storage. 
  • Encourage investment in clean energy technology to foster innovation. 
  • Promote integrating renewable energy systems on farms. 
  • Encourage existing and new energy suppliers to use hybrid energy systems. 

Tourism

Vision 

The region’s tourism sector is strong and builds on its existing lifestyle qualities of food, wellness and outdoor recreation. It creates unique year-round tourism experiences to grow and diversify the local economy. The sector engages the Aboriginal community, provides youth employment and is supported by improved transport and sporting venues. 

Opportunities for action 

  • Adopt a place-based tourism strategy that seeks to diversify and engage all community members. 
  • Invest in infrastructure, training and skills. 
  • Engage with the Aboriginal community to develop tourism products and experiences. 
  • Develop tourists trails and circuits, including for motorcycles, walking, cycling and mountain biking. 
  • Promote cultural heritage tourism. 

How we’ve been adapting so far

With the knowledge and partnerships gained through the Central West and Orana Enabling Regional Adaptation work, there is an opportunity for council, government and communities to show leadership and consider this work in their plans to respond to climate change.

Some opportunities for action are already being addressed by government, community, households and business, to help the Central West and Orana region adapt to the impacts of climate change and build a sustainable, productive and equitable future.

One example of action being taken is the Land Studio pilot project by the Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation. This project engages city dwellers to increase their climate change awareness and participate in climate resilience initiatives on rural land restoration.

Other examples include the projects supported by the Building Resilience to Climate Change grants and Increasing Resilience to Climate Change grants.

The Enabling Regional Adaptation work has already been used to inform government planning in the Central West and Orana region, through the Central West and Orana Regional ;Plan 2036. Incorporating this work into regional and state plans ensures climate change risks specific to the Central West and Orana are included.

If you have an example of how a community group, business or local government is adapting to climate change, email AdaptNSW so we can share your story.