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Definition: New South Wales from Collins English Dictionary

n

1 a state of SE Australia: originally contained over half the continent, but was reduced by the formation of other states (1825–1911); consists of a narrow coastal plain, separated from extensive inland plains by the Great Dividing Range; the most populous state; mineral resources. Capital: Sydney. Pop: 7 272 800 (2012). Area: 801 428 sq km (309 433 sq miles)


Summary Article: New South Wales
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

State of southeast Australia, including the dependency of Lord Howe Island; area 801,600 sq km/309,500 sq mi; population (2001 est) 6,609,300 (over half in the capital, Sydney). It is the most populous of the Australian states, the population having more than doubled, especially in coastal areas, in the second half of the 20th century as immigration from South America, the Middle East and Asia, as well as Europe, increased substantially. At the same time, the hydroelectricity and irrigation waters of the Snowy Mountains Scheme fostered economic development, and coastal industries such as the iron and steel works of Newcastle and Wollongong expanded. The state is bounded by Queensland on the north, the Tasman Sea on the east, Victoria on the south, and South Australia on the west. Products include cereals, fruit, wine, sugar, tobacco, dairy products, meat, wool, gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, coal, iron and steel, machinery, electrical appliances, cars, furniture, textiles and textile goods, hides and leather, tobacco, chemicals, paint, oil, paper, hydroelectric power from the Snowy River, mineral sands, glassware, timber, poultry, opals, fish and other seafood. Other towns and cities in the state are Newcastle, Wollongong, Wagga Wagga, Broken Hill, Goulburn, Bathurst, Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Albury, and Tamworth.

History New South Wales was visited by Captain James Cook in 1770 and was a convict settlement 1788–1850. It was opened to free settlement by 1819 and achieved self-government in 1855, becoming a state of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

Physical Physical features include the Great Dividing Range (including Blue Mountains) and part of the Australian Alps, including Australia's highest peak, Mount Kosciusko (2,230 m/7,316 ft). The principal rivers are the Murray, Murrumbidgee, and Darling. Other rivers are the Lachlan, Macquarie-Bogan, Richmond, Clarence, Macleay, Manning, Hunter, Hawkesbury, and Shoalhaven. The numerous streams that rise on the western side of the watershed within the state all drain into the Murray system. In the northeast corner of the state there are areas of dense forest (particularly eucalyptus trees). Other features are the Riverina district, irrigated by the Murray-Darling-Murrumbidgee river system; the Hunter Valley wine-producing area; and the Snowy River Scheme. Canberra forms an enclave within the state.

New South Wales has a coastline of over 1,125 km/700 mi.

Climate The climate is generally mild, although very high temperatures are found in the northwest and extreme cold on the southern tablelands in winter. Snow is found most of the year on peaks of the Australian Alps. The annual rainfall varies greatly, but in general diminishes towards the northwest. More than one-third of New South Wales receives less than 355 mm/14 in of rain a year. The coastal areas have the highest rainfall, about 1,905 mm/75 in the northeast. Sydney has an annual rainfall of 1,220 mm/48 in, a summer mean temperature of 23°C/73°F, and a winter mean temperature of 12°C/54°F. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) found, in 1999, that the annual rainfall in New South Wales had increased by 15% over the past 85 years.

Economy New South Wales is Australia's most industrialized and most densely populated state. Nevertheless it is still predominantly a primary producer, reliant on agriculture and mining. Tourism is also important. The cultivable area has been enlarged by many irrigation schemes, the most extensive of which is the Murrumbidgee River scheme. West of the Great Dividing Range fertile agricultural land is irrigated by the Murray, Darling, and Murrumbidgee rivers. The main crops grown are wheat, maize, oats, barley, rice, tobacco, vegetables, oranges, apples, peaches, and sugar cane. Grapes are an important crop, and the Hunter Valley is one of Australia's principal wine-producing regions, producing high quality Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Semillon wines. The Riverina region produces more than half of the state's wine, and about 70% of the wines are white wines (Semillon, Chardonnay, and Chablis). Further west is semi-arid grazing land. In the north of the state the Great Dividing Range forms a plateau where sheep and cattle are grazed. Grazing and livestock raising are major industries, and meat, wool, and dairy products are produced.

New South Wales is rich in minerals and timber. In addition to coal, silver, and zinc, there are deposits of lead, copper, limestone, gypsum, mineral sands, and opals. Broken Hill, in the far west of the state, is the principal silver- and lead-mining region. Coal is mined in a large area around Sydney and Newcastle, in the east of the state, and coal from the Hunter Valley near Newcastle is used to fuel power stations and is also coked for metal smelting. Parts of the northeast of the state are densely forested, and timber is an important product. However, there has been opposition to the activities of the timber trade by environmentalists, and some of the timber is now protected.

Industry is concentrated in the cities on the east coast; Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, and Port Kembla.

Products of the iron- and steelworks at Newcastle (the first ironworks was established there in 1915) and Port Kembla include iron and steel of various grades, boilers, pipes, wire, and brass cables. Other industrial products include machinery, cars, clothing and textiles, food and drink, electrical appliances, chemicals, paint, oil, paper, glassware, and furniture.

Tourism New South Wales attracted over 2 million overseas tourists in 1997, and the number of tourists visiting the state is increasing rapidly. The city of Sydney is an important tourist destination, with its harbour, waterways, beaches, and attractions such as Sydney Harbour Bridge (completed in 1932) and the Opera House (opened in 1973). Sydney's attractions were made more accessible in 1992 when the Sydney Tunnel under the harbour was opened to relieve traffic congestion.

The Blue Mountains area is nearby with its heritage sites, interesting rock formations, and national parks. The Hunter Valley region, well known for the quality of its wines, is also nearby. The Snowy Mountains in the south of New South Wales includes Mount Kosciusko National Park. In northern New South Wales Dorrigo National Park is also a popular destination. Beaches suitable for swimming, surfing, fishing, whale watching, and yachting, extend along the state's coastline.

There is a radio telescope at Parkes. Siding Spring Mountain (859 m/2,817 ft), northwest of Sydney, has telescopes that can observe the central sector of the Galaxy.

Government The state constitution is drawn from many sources, including the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, elements of inherited English law, and internal amendments. Parliament consists of two houses, the Legislative Council (42 members elected by general election for an 8-year term) and the Legislative Assembly (99 members elected by general election for a 4-year term). The duration of parliament is limited to three years, and 15 members of the council retire every three years. Voting is compulsory for all British or naturalized subjects of 18 years or over, who have resided six months in Australia, three months in the state, and one month in any one electoral district. Women were enfranchized in 1902. The executive is in the hands of a governor, appointed by the British government.

19th century The English explorer Captain James Cook landed at Botany Bay in 1770 and named the area New Wales because he thought the coastline resembled that of Wales. New South Wales originated as a penal settlement founded by the British government in 1788 at Port Jackson, near Botany Bay. The prisoners, after their period of servitude or on being pardoned, became settlers and obtained grants of land. At first the Blue Mountains (the section of the Great Dividing Range west of Sydney) presented an impenetrable barrier to the west, and kept the colonists on the central coastal strip. At last, in 1813, the explorers William Wentworth, Gregory Blaxland, and William Lawson found a passage through to the Bathurst Plains, which were later occupied by the great sheep and wheat farms of Australia.

By 1819 New South Wales was opened to free settlement, and convict transportation to East Australia ceased in 1840. Up to that date the total number of convicts sent there amounted to 60,700, of whom only 8,700 were women. They were assigned as bondservants to the free settlers, who were obliged to give them a fixed allowance of clothing and food. In 1843 a practically elective legislative council was established and in 1855 self-government was granted. Gold was discovered near Bathurst in 1851, causing an economic boom and rapid population growth.

The present borders of New South Wales were established in 1863: Victoria broke off to form a separate colony in 1851, followed by Queensland in 1859; prior to 1863 New South Wales included what is now the Northern Territory (from 1863–1911 the Northern Territory came under the control of South Australia).

20th century In 1911 the Australian Capital Territory, with the capital Canberra, was established as an enclave within New South Wales. In 1949 the governments of New South Wales and Victoria agreed on a scheme for the diversion of the headwaters of the Snowy River across the Australian Alps into the upper Murray and Tumut rivers, in connection with a vast hydroelectric irrigation project, constructed by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority and opened in 1972. In 1958 Australia's first nuclear reactor became operational at Lucas Heights. Since 1973 there has been decentralization to counteract the pull of Sydney, and the New England and Riverina districts have separatist movements.

An earthquake stuck Newcastle in 1989, killing 12 people. In January 1994, bush fires ravaged 965 km/600 mi of the state's eastern coastline, burning 770,000 ha/2 million acres and claiming four lives. In 1993 Sydney won the bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games at Homebush.

Flora and fauna To the west of the Great Dividing Range species of plant include mountain ash, spotted gum, hoop pine, orchids, scrub, and wild flowers such as the waratah. To the east of the Great Dividing Range species include yellow box, malga, malbe, river gums, banksia, coolabah trees, and ghost gums. Birdlife includes emus, kookaburras, magpies, and cokatoos. Bandicoots, koalas, kangaroos, possums, platypuses, and wallabies are among the state's fauna, and trap door spiders, funnel web spiders (found in coastal areas), and red back spiders are found. Among the snakes found in the state are the king brown snake, the diamond python, and the death adder.

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