Eyre Peninsula is one of South Australia’s most productive regions generating approx. $3.5 billion in Gross Regional Product (GRP) annually. The region is highly export oriented with product valued at $2.98 billion being exported to domestic and overseas markets in 2021.
The regional economy is primarily driven by the agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and aquaculture and fishing industries. While these industries are well established, tourism, renewable energy, and health and community services are fast developing as major sources of employment and revenue generation. Whyalla is unique having a substantial industrial base, providing mining, engineering and steel manufacturing services.
The region has many competitive advantages including well established industries, premium food and agricultural product, magnificent natural resources, high quality mineral resources, vibrant communities, and a quality lifestyle second to none.
These collective characteristics provide significant export and domestic growth opportunities.
- Health Care and Social Assistance
- Small Business
- Fishing and Aquaculture
- Renewable Energy
HEALTH CARE & SOCIAL ASSISTANCE
The region has an ageing population and increasing demand for aged care services. Based on employment generation, health care and social assistance is the largest employing industry in South Australia, and is the largest industry in the region.
In 2021, the health care and social assistance industry provided 3,537 total jobs or 14.1% of regional employment. This industry was the largest employer in Port Lincoln, Whyalla and Ceduna; and a key employer in all of the region’s Local Government Areas (LGAs).
In 2021 manufacturing, which includes the production of metal products and food processing, provided 1,916 (7.6%) of the region’s jobs. Manufacturing contributes 15.5% of output valued at $961.8 million, and generates exports of $744 million.
Whyalla is the largest industrial city in regional South Australia and the principal centre for manufacturing, steel production and resources processing in the Upper Spencer Gulf. The manufacturing industry in Whyalla provided 1,407 jobs in 2021, and Port Lincoln provided 299 of the region’s manufacturing jobs.
Most of Whyalla’s manufacturing jobs were provided in the iron and steel production sector. Whyalla’s reliance on iron ore mining and steel manufacturing makes its economy extremely vulnerable to commodity price variations.
Agriculture is the region’s largest (FTE) employer providing 2,415 (11.43%) of the region’s jobs. In 2021, agriculture had the largest output by industry, generating $1,246 million or 15.29% of the region’s output.
The region produces high quality lamb, beef and pork, and is renowned for high quality and niche grains. On average, the region produces 40% of the State’s wheat crop, 24% of the barley crop, and 22% of canola. Approximately 97% of the region’s grain crop is exported and was valued at $782.6 million in 2021.
The region is well serviced with a comprehensive range of retail, trade, finance and other businesses.
The Cities of Port Lincoln and Whyalla are the main regional centres with major supermarkets, specialist retail outlets, banking, financial and professional services; along with tourism operations, hotels, restaurants, automotive, trades and other businesses.
In the west, Ceduna is the main commercial centre providing a broad range of retail, finance, tourist, and trade services, along with State and Australian Government agencies. The smaller rural centres of Tumby Bay, Streaky Bay, Cummins, Wudinna, Kimba, Lock, Cleve and Cowell have well developed shopping and agricultural service precincts.
Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the regional economy providing goods and services, employment and sponsorship to local communities and community clubs.
Small business sustainability is directly related to the success of the region’s major industries – ie agriculture, manufacturing, mining, health care, construction, fishing and aquaculture. These industries provide most of the region’s employment and many SMEs have been established to directly support and service them.
In 2021, the region had 4,928 businesses, with the largest proportion (1,783, 36.2%) in the agriculture and fishing sectors. Approximately 60% of SMEs are owner operated, non-employing businesses; and 85% of these are micro-businesses employing less than 5 people.
Retail trade is the region’s third largest industry, providing 2,477 jobs and 9.9% of regional employment. In 2021, most of the region’s retail trade employees were based in Whyalla (871, 35% of jobs) and Port Lincoln (834, 34% of the region’s retail jobs).
While the COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges and disruption, it has also presented opportunities to improve the visitor experience through increased investment and a renewed focus on sustainability.
Tourism is a key sector for the Eyre Peninsula, contributing $488 million to South Australia’s $6.2 billion (YE December 2021). As of 2021, the Eyre Peninsula exceeded its 2025 target of $397 million and achieved 98% of the 2030 target of $499 million. In 2021, Eyre Peninsula had the second highest expenditure of all the regions in South Australia and was the fourth most visited indicating a propensity to attract a higher-than average contribution to the visitor economy per visitor. The region’s tourism industry supports over 600 tourism businesses employing 2,700 people through direct and indirect jobs.
As stated in the South Australian Regional Visitor Strategy (SARVS) (SATC, 2021) “the opportunity for the Eyre Peninsula is to capitalise on its strengths, including pristine nature, immersive wildlife experiences and coastal lifestyle – to drive increased overnight stays from domestic and future international visitors”. The region has approximately 100 state, national and conservation parks, ten state marine parks, and three commonwealth marine reserves.
With stunning landscapes, world-class seafood and unique nature-based experiences like shark diving and swimming with cuttlefish, the Eyre Peninsula is a hotspot for tourism. The Eyre Peninsula is the second largest of South Australia’s regions in terms of tourism expenditure. Sustainable expansion of this sector is required to support future economic and social benefits.
Eyre Peninsula is located within the Gawler Craton and Eucla Basin provinces. These provinces are regarded as the most promising mineral frontiers in Australia, and contain large resources of high quality magnetite, graphite, kaolin gypsum and mineral sands. The region has 9 major operating and approved mines, and 9 developing projects.
In 2020/21, mining provided 1,053 jobs and 4.2% of employment.
Mining generates $566.4m or 19% of the region’s exports.
The mining industry is expected to have additional growth in future years when developing mines and prospects progress from exploration to operation. This will create numerous employment and business opportunities and further diversify the regional economy. However, this growth will be subject to improved commodity prices, and is very much dependent on significant government and private investment in major port, road, rail, power and water infrastructure.
FISHING & AQUACULTURE
The region is renowned domestically and internationally for its premium seafood product. This reputation has been built on sound environmental management, sustainability, aquaculture development and entrepreneurship.
On average, the region produces 100% of South Australia’s Southern Bluefin Tuna along with 100% of the State’s marine finfish, 97% of oysters, 100% of mussels, and about 62% of the State’s abalone production.
In total, approximately 82% of South Australia’s seafood product is exported from the RDAEP region. In 2020/21, aquaculture and fishing accounted for 12% of the region’s exports valued at $360.9m.
The fishing and aquaculture industries are small employers in comparison with other industries, providing 770 and 529 of the region’s jobs respectively in 2020/21.
Renewable energy has substantial development potential due to the region’s natural assets of consistent wind resources, abundant sunshine and high wave action. The region has an estimated 300 cloud free days per annum, making it ideal for large scale solar energy farms.
Eyre Peninsula has a landscape suitable for large scale wind farms. Four zones have been identified with wind speeds above 8 metres per second and potential to produce more than 10,000MW of power generation. Two existing wind farms at Cathedral Rocks (near Port Lincoln) and Mt Millar (near Cowell) supplement the Eyre Peninsula power transmission network.
Eyre Peninsula is a critical part of the SA Government’s plan to transition to affordable green energy and green hydrogen production.
FUTURE DIRECTION & REGIONAL ADVANTAGES
The Eyre Peninsula economy is extremely diverse with key industries including manufacturing, agriculture, fishing, and aquaculture. Diversity is one of the region’s greatest strengths and underpins its comparative advantage and business competitiveness. Diversity facilitates economic growth and sustainability, and provides resilience through not being reliant on a single industry or product for regional prosperity.
Growing new and transformational industries, as well as supporting existing business through increased sovereign capability, value adding and vertical integration will not only enhance the region’s competitiveness but provide greater resilience to global markets.
In 2021 the region’s GRP was approximately $3.45 billion, which represents 2.96% of GSP, having grown 2.3% since the previous year.
With a large share of regional output linked to primary production, changes in sea and air temperatures threaten to have significant impacts. Many of Eyre Peninsula’s primary producers are already undertaking to adapt their activities to reflect a warmer and potentially drier climate. For the sake of the Eyre Peninsula economy and community, it is important that these adaptations continue to occur, whether led by the private sector or with the support of government. The changing climate also presents opportunities for regions to attract economic development linked to the generation of renewable energy. These include energy drawn from solar farms, wind, and green hydrogen.
Many of the region’s opportunities will not be realised without substantial upgrades to critical infrastructure such as water, power, telecommunications, roads, rail and ports.
While the emergence of new industries such as space, hydrogen, mining, and renewable energy has the ability to be transformational, it will not be fully realised if the region cannot provide the workforce needed. Attracting, retaining and training the workforce to support these industries and those of existing businesses requires the foundations of healthcare, housing, childcare, water, power and telecommunications.
To obtain maximum economic benefit for the region, we need to not only be an exporter of grain, seafood, minerals, steel and hydrogen, but an exporter of local skills, knowledge and expertise.