Livelihoods of Leschenault

The Leschenault catchment provides a wide-range of opportunities for economic activity based on use of natural resources, as well as lifestyle, tourism and recreation. Major industries include mining, dairy and beef cattle, horticulture, tourism, and forestry. Approximately 30% of the total area is used for agriculture (South West Agriculture Resources Management Group, 2004).


The labour force in the Bunbury−Wellington sub-region (of which Leschenault Catchment is a part) has grown 20 per cent over the last five years from 39,312 to 47,207. The unemployment rate has also increased from 3.9 per cent to 4.8 per cent over the same period. This is likely the result of the large increase in the workforce over the last five years and in particular the growth of over 65s remaining in or returning to the workforce.

The ‘mining, manufacturing and construction’ sectors have continued to grow with the number of people employed increasing 29 per cent, 15 per cent and 43 per cent respectively over the last five years. This is reflected in the value of these sectors doubling since 2007−08 to $4.5 billion. The strong construction figures can be attributed to the major mining and energy expansion projects undertaken in the sub-region, region and State-wide.

There has been a significant increase in the number of ‘professionals, scientific and technical services’ employees which has increased 41 per cent over the last five years. The public sector has also significantly increased its workforce in the region with ‘education and training’ and ‘health care and social assistance’ increasing 29 per cent and 30 per cent respectively over the last five years. Service provision has also been a key focus area with the number of people employed in the ‘electricity, gas, water and waste services’ sectors increasing 45 per cent over the last five years.

In contrast, the number of people working in the agricultural sector has decreased by 14 per cent over the last five years. This can be attributed to a number of factors including restructuring of industries such as dairy, viticulture and fruit orchards, increases in the scale of farm businesses by leasing other farmland and the retirement of older farmers and farmers exiting the industry (WAPC 2014).


Mining for bauxite and coal within the Darling Plateau portion of the Shire of Collie is the major economic activity in the sub-region with the value of production from these minerals reaching approximately $1.24 billion in 2004/05. Mineral sands are also important on the coastal plain with the total value of heavy  sands from the Capel, Bunbury and Dardanup local government areas reaching approximately $266.73 M in 2004/05 (DoIR, 2005).


Approximately half of the land within the Leschenault catchment below the Wellington Dam is used for  agricultural production, predominately for dairy, cattle grazing and horticulture on cleared portions of the coastal plain. The combined value of the agricultural production for the Bunbury, Capel, Collie, Dardanup and Donnybrook-Balingup and Harvey local government areas for 2001/02 was $192.48 M.

The portion of the Leschenault catchment above Wellington Dam is predominantly uncleared and managed by the Department of Water as a Water Supply Recovery Catchment under the State Salinity Strategy (State Salinity Council, 2000). The dominant land-uses are native forestry and tree plantations although this extensive area also has important nature conservation and recreational use values.  Approximately 20% of the area is farmed for wool production. Increasingly softwood and hardwood plantations are being incorporated into traditional farming systems and as alternative crops.


Tourism is also a significant industry in the Leschenault catchment area and recreational fishing is a popular activity.


There are a number of aquaculture ventures including a joint initiative between Curtin University of Technology, Wesfarmers Premier Coal and Griffin Coal at the Collie Aquafarm. The South West Aquaculture and Environment Centre (SWAEC) also promote the development of aquaculture within abandoned mine voids.