Skip to Content

About the Central Ranges

An internationally recognised wine grape growing region with strong farming heritage and traditions.

The area supports a diverse mix of land uses including viticulture, horticulture, livestock grazing, horse agistment and biodiversity conservation, with an increasing amount of land being used as lifestyle properties. Remnant grassy woodlands and temperate grassland ecosystems provide important habitat for native plants and animals. This page explores the features of the Central Ranges subregion, the things we value about its landscapes, and its communities, including:

  • water resources
  • biodiversity
  • production capacity
  • community’s livelihoods and lifestyles.


Supporting healthy aquatic habitats, agriculture, horticulture and urban supply, tourism and recreation, and cultural values.

Streams such as the Marne River, Reedy Creek, Milendella Creek and Saunders Creek intermittently flow from the hills into the River Murray, influenced by the strong rainfall gradient across the ranges (350-650mm). The surface water resources of this subregion have been extensively developed (mostly by farm dams) which has significantly affected natural low flow components in stream ecosystems.

The water resources of this catchment support a range of flora and fauna species including nine native fish species still found in the area (including river blackfish, protected under the state Fisheries Management Act 2007), a range of aquatic macroinvertebrates considered rare or uncommon in South Australian streams, and several species of aquatic (instream) and riparian (stream side) vegetation considered of conservation significance in the Murray region. These species are supported by surface water runoff, stream flow and input from groundwater into streams from springs and baseflow.

Groundwater resources in the hills are from fractured rock aquifers and are mostly low yielding with moderate salinity, although there are pockets of better quality water.

The water resources on the eastern side of the Mount Lofty Ranges spine are managed under the Water Allocation Plans (WAPs) for the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges (EMLR) and the Marne Saunders catchments. Water-taking limits in EMLR and Marne Saunders WAPs are predicated on low flows being returned to the environment as a way to maximise sharing of water for consumptive and environmental purposes.  There is very little scope for further water development in this area. 



Supporting our unique native plants, animals and a range of ecosystem services

Lying within the Mount Lofty Ranges, the Central Ranges is part of an area considered a biodiversity hotspot for the nation. It contains habitat important to a suite of native species, including a number of declining woodland birds. Grassy and shrubby woodlands, and natural temperate grasslands were once widespread across this landscape, but now occur as small, fragmented patches or scattered paddock trees within a primarily agricultural landscape. Native vegetation cover is around 15% of its former extent.

Significant biodiversity assets of the Central Ranges include the nationally listed ecological communities Iron Grass Natural Temperate Grasslands and Peppermint Box Grassy Woodlands. 

The Central Ranges subregion provides habitat for 47 state listed threatened flora species and 20 state listed threatened fauna species. Seven flora and two fauna species are also listed nationally under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. A full list of threatened species found in this subregion can be downloaded here.


Sustainable production

Supporting rural livelihoods, and feeding our nation.

The variable and highly fertile soils, together with the climate in this subregion are well suited to a broad range of agricultural enterprises. Rainfall is moderate on the plains and higher in the hills with a strong west (higher rainfall) to east (lower rainfall) gradient corresponding to elevation.

The dominant land use is grazing of modified pastures by cattle and sheep, although deer, goats and alpacas also constitute grazing enterprises in this subregion. Horse keeping and agistment is significant, as are a diverse mix of other land uses including viticulture, annual and perennial horticulture (such as vegetables, fruits and nuts, dairy, nursery and cut flower production).

There are a significant number of lifestyle properties in this subregion with many of these contributing to the primary production of the area and the important cottage and tourism industries.

The area is known for its high quality produce and 'clean, green' image. Many of the land uses in this area rely on supplementary water from dams and watercourse diversions, especially significant in the hills and bores. Cropping is limited by the hilly topography, acidic soils, and soil types that are prone to water erosion. 



A clean and healthy atmosphere with effective adaptation to climate change.

Climate has a major influence on the nature and distribution of the region’s native flora and fauna, its water regimes, farming systems and even settlement patterns.

Climate model projections  indicate a warmer and, most likely, drier climate across the SA Murray-Darling Basin in future. Climate change will have major implications for the way that natural resources are managed, and the effects are already being felt by a number of industries and ecological systems. For more information on the impacts of a changing climate and options for adaptation in this subregion click here



Working together to look after our natural resources.

The Central Ranges subregion is defined as much by the community's social connection to farming and particularly viticultural traditions of German origin in the Barossa Valley, as by its landscape characteristics.

This community has a strong food and wine culture and supports numerous cottage and niche industries. The area is quite accessible to Adelaide and there are a high proportion of commuters. There are strong transport linkages to regional centres such as Gawler. The population is of a reasonable size and is increasing.

The area has the highest proportion of households with internet access in the SAMDB region. Unemployment is low and there are a high proportion of graduates in the workforce, as well as women in managerial or technical occupations.

Most of this subregion is the traditional land of the Peramangk people, though some parts to the north are within Ngadjuri country.

There are a large number of very active NRM volunteer groups supported by Natural Resources SAMDB, the Eastern Hills and Murray Plains Catchment Group and the Mount Pleasant Natural Resources Centre

To download a printable subregion summary, click here