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About Southern Fleurieu

With rolling hills, sweeping coastal views and a range of cottage industries.

This subregion is a popular destination for tourists. The Fleurieu Peninsula has rolling hills and coastal views, and is known for its cottage and niche industries, and clean, green, local food production. The precious Fleurieu Swamps support plants and animals of national significance and are unique to the area. The majority of this subregion lies within the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM region, with only the northern-most strip in the SA Murray-Darling Basin NRM region. This page explores the features of the Southern Fleurieu 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.

The Southern Fleurieu subregion has moderate to high rainfall (500-850mm) which is the wettest part of the SAMDB region. The surface water resources of this subregion have been extensively developed with dams and watercourse diversions resulting in less water for watercourses. Groundwater resources in the area are highly variable in yield and quality. Sedimentary aquifers occur adjacent to drainage lines and consequently, groundwater is often fresher. Fractured rock aquifers occur patchily across the landscape beyond the sedimentary aquifers and limit groundwater resource development.

Water is used mostly for viticulture, horticulture, stock and domestic purposes. Water resources are also critical to support the Swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula, which are listed under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) as a critically endangered ecological community. The Fleurieu wetlands access diverse sources of water but the ‘natural’ flow regime, particularly perched wetlands, has changed significantly because of land clearance and water interception by dams and commercial forestry.

The eastern water resources that drain into Lake Alexandrina around Goolwa are managed under the Water Allocation Plan for the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges Prescribed Water Resources.  The western water resources that drain into Encounter Bay are managed by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board under the Water Allocation Plan for the Western Mount Lofty Ranges Prescribed Water Resources.



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

The Swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula, occurring in this subregion comprise an ecological community of national biodiversity significance. The Swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula are dependent on flows from rivers and creeks of the southern Mount Lofty Ranges. Grassy woodlands and grasslands once dominated this landscape, but now occur mostly as fragments and scattered trees due to historic clearing of vegetation for agriculture in this productive environment. This subregion falls within the Eastern Hills biophysical landscape, which has just under 15% native vegetation cover.

Protected areas in this subregion include Deep Creek, Newland Head, and a number of smaller Conservation Parks.

The Southern Fleurieu subregion provides habitat for 101 State listed threatened flora species and 74 State listed threatened fauna species. Nine flora and 24 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.

With moderate to high rainfall, the Southern Fleurieu subregion is characterised by ranges, plateaus and valleys. The Southern Fleurieu is known for its 'clean green' local food and wine production and supports a range of cottage and niche industries and tourism around wine, food, heritage and coastal activities are important to the local economy. 

The main productive land use is grazing of modified pastures by cattle and sheep. Other production includes; irrigated pastures, hay production, viticulture, annual and perennial horticulture(such as olives, fruits, nuts and cut flowers), dairy, horse keeping and agistment, and other livestock (such as alpaca, deer, goats, freshwater aquaculture).

Soils in the subregion are highly variable and include; moderately deep acidic soils over clays and rock, sands and sandy loam soils over clay, acidic glacial sands, and deep cracking clays on river flats and floodplains. Rainfall is generally moderate to high across the subregion. Water availability in this subregion can be variable, as the few watercourses in the subregion are extensively developed with dams and diversions, the numbers of springs has declined, and groundwater yields and quality can be inconsistent.



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 community of this subregion is socially connected by association with the coast and activities such as sport and retail trade. With a relatively high population and significant growth in the decade to 2011, combined with comparatively low numbers of people per household, infrastructure for housing is a significant land use. This subregion also has the largest proportion of elderly people, well above the state average.

Victor Harbor is the regional centre for business and industry, while other towns servicing the subregion include; Goolwa, Middleton, Port Elliot and Mount Compass. Close proximity to Adelaide offers a country lifestyle together with a high level of services and recreational opportunities, resulting in a high proportion of city commuters.

A number of traditional owner groups including the Peramangk, Ngarrindjeri and Kaurna have connections to parts of this subregion although there is currently only a relatively small Aboriginal population within the area.

This area has above average volunteer rates, which is a sign of community strength and NRM volunteer groups are supported by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Natural Resources SAMDB, Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges, the Goolwa to Wellington Local Action Planning Association and various Natural Resources Centres.