The ancient landscape of the Gascoyne Region stretches from Shark Bay to Exmouth and inland to Meekatharra, Mount Magnet and beyond. It covers world-famous attractions including Monkey Mia, Ningaloo Reef and Mt Augustus. Situated on the Tropic of Capricorn, the Gascoyne is home to about 10,000 people. The region’s five main industries are tourism, fishing, horticulture, pastoral and mining. The diversity of these industries together with a strong network of retail, trade and administrative services present a solid base for the consistent economy of the Gascoyne.
It was in this region that the first fully documented landing of Europeans on the Australian continent occurred in 1616 when the Dutch navigator Dirk Hartog visited Shark Bay and left an inscribed pewter plate at the northern end of what became known as Cape Inscription at Dirk Hartog Island.
Tourism is the largest revenue earner of all industry sectors in the Gascoyne region, attracting an average turnover of $191 million annually over the 2006-2008 years. In addition to the coastal attractions of Ningaloo Reef and Shark Bay, many visitors are drawn inland to experience station stays and visit Mt Augustus – the biggest monocline in the world.
The region has a long history of occupancy by Aboriginal people. European settlement of the Gascoyne River delta started in the late 1870s. The town of Carnarvon, which is the region’s administrative centre, developed as a port for shipping livestock and wool and was gazetted in 1883. The town took its name from Lord Carnarvon, Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1873 to 1877.
In contemporary times the region’s economy has been dominated by fishing, mining, tourism and agriculture.
In 2007 the Gascoyne horticultural industry grew approximately 39,000 tonnes of produce worth $87.6 million. Of this, fruit accounted for 8,400 tonnes worth $26.7 million and vegetables 30,500 tonne of valued at $60.9 million.
Total livestock disposals in the 2006/07 year added $11.4 million to the region’s economy. During the same year, wool production brought in $7.35 million.
The agriculture sector was valued at $86 million in 2010 and is dominated by horticultural and pastoral production. Carnarvon has a well-established horticulture industry supplying fruit and vegetables for the domestic and export markets. The pastoral industry remains vital to the regional economy. Some 115,800 km square of the Gascoyne landmass is allocated to pastoral activity. Wool and meat production are the primary activities, however many stations have diversified to take advantage of opportunities in goat domestication, horticulture, aquaculture and tourism.
Mining production is valued at around $70 million, of which salt production accounted for $50.2 million and gypsum $20.3 million. The Gascoyne contributes 27 per cent of the total value of Western Australia's salt production and 88 per cent of gypsum.
The local catch is dominated by prawns, with the Gascoyne Region having the largest prawn catch in Western Australia. Prawns, molluscs, lobster, crabs and a variety of wetline fish are caught in Gascoyne waters, and subsequently processed at on shore operations at Carnarvon, Exmouth and Shark Bay.