Where am I?
The main things that come to mind when many people think of the environment are air (or atmosphere), water, land, biodiversity and human settlement. These are the themes that provide the overriding structure for state of the environment reports.
Gundagai Shire enjoys generally clean air, and a pleasant climate. Its position inland at relatively low elevation ensures a warm temperate climate.
Lack of heavy industry ensures that pollutants are low and are usually dispersed. Inversions in the valley occupied by the town of Gundagai occur frequently in early winter and can trap wood smoke from home fires. The inversions usually disperse in early morning.
As with the rest of south-east Australia, Gundagai Shire is affected by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO is a natural phenomenon (although debate continues as to whether human interference in the climate system could increase its frequency of occurrence or severity). It is responsible for some—but by no means all—of the climatic variability in our Region. There is no doubt that 'droughts and flooding rains' are a feature of life in most parts of Australia, and that our own Region does not suffer as badly from these swings as other areas.
In addition, the shire, along with the rest of the world, is inevitably subject to two global atmospheric phenomena that are human-induced: the decline in upper atmosphere (stratospheric) ozone, with its consequent increase in ultraviolet ( UV ) radiation reaching ground level; and the enhanced Greenhouse effect, with the likelihood of global warming and changes in established weather patterns.
As these are global in their causes and effects, individual jurisdictions cannot single-handedly solve them, but should nevertheless play their part in complying with any national and international agreements that attempt to do so.
Gundagai Shire has been extensively cleared, with more than 80% of the shire used for dryland cropping and grazing. Less than 1% of the shire is managed for conservation. The result of this is that there are few remaining examples of the original vegetation cover. Those that are identified are protected—two areas of native grassy box woodland at Muttama village and South Gundagai. Council has entered an agreement with conservation agencies to adequately protect these areas (see the list of nature reserves below).
Almost all of the shire is located in the South-Western Slopes bioregion. The dominant vegetation type in Gundagai Shire would have been characterised by
The extreme eastern tip of the shire is in more rugged terrain, and is part of the South Eastern Highlands bioregion, which features
There are two nature reserves at least partly within the shire (Table 1). Two state forests are entirely within the shire, and one more is partly within the shire (Table 2).
Reference: R. Thackway and E.D. Cresswell (1995) An Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia: A Framework for Setting Priorities in the National Reserves System Cooperative Program , Version 4.0 Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra.
As an agricultural area, Gundagai Shire has a relatively small population of only 3763 people (June 2004), most of whom live in Gundagai itself. There are four villages namely Coolac, Tumblong, Muttama and Nangus with populations ranging from 40 to 90 people.
The Gundagai area is part of the traditional Waradjuri land and evidence suggests that the floodplains below the town were a frequent meeting place of Aboriginal people. Indeed traditional bora rings have been identified close to town in recent times. White settlement began in the mid-1800s and the town developed on the floodplain to service the crossing of the Murrumbidgee River.
In 1852 a large flood devastated the original township with the loss of many lives. The Aboriginal people (especially two known as Yarri and Jacky-Jacky) were responsible for saving many lives during this flood and the community has developed a special affinity with the traditional owners. Gundagai people believe that the flood and its aftermath was the birthplace of reconciliation.
Whilst the area is traditionally agricultural the growth in tourism due to the township's position on the Hume Highway, its fame in song and verse and its heritage atmosphere has seen the tourist service industry grow to become the major employer.
Gundagai boasts the second highest motel occupancy in rural NSW. Gundagai Meatworks is the largest single employer in the area with over 100 employees.
Gundagai Shire is located on the South Western Slopes region of southern New South Wales, to the west of the footslopes of the New South Wales Snowy Mountains. The shire is contained entirely in the Murrumbidgee River catchment.
Gundagai Shire is unusual in that it embraces a variety of distinctive geographical environments, each with its own particular climatic characteristics, landforms, terrain, soil conditions, flora and fauna (see Biodiversity above). Terrain varies from elevated tableland and high–rainfall country rising to the ranges and nearby sub-alpine region (in the east and south-east), through hill country around Gundagai town, to the gentler slopes and open pastures towards Junee and Wagga Wagga in the west.
Flowing diagonally through the shire from north-east to south-west is the broad Murrumbidgee River valley with its flood plains and numerous tributaries— including the Tumut River, which flows northwards from its headwaters in the Kosciuzko National Park.