The Atherton Tablelands is a diverse region, covering an area of 64,768 square kilometres and home to 45,243 people (estimated resident population, Census 2011).
The main population centres on the Atherton Tablelands are Mareeba and Atherton.
Smaller towns include Malanda, Herberton, Kuranda, Ravenshoe, Millaa Millaa, Chillagoe, Dimbulah, Mt Garnet, Mt Molloy, Tinaroo and Yungaburra.
The region spreads westwards and southwards from the coastal escarpment behind Cairns and incorporates parts of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area to the east, the Einasleigh Uplands to the south, the Gulf Plains to the west and the Cape York Peninsula bioregion to the north.
The mountainous region in the east reaches heights above 1600 metres, including Queensland’s highest mountain Mt Bartle Frere at 1622 metres.
Because of its altitude, the region does not suffer from temperature extremes or the high humidity experienced in coastal areas. The northern part of the region enjoys cool, dry winters and warm, wet summers with minimum daily temperatures in winter rarely falling below 15ºC and maximum daily summer temperatures rarely exceeding 35ºC. To the south, rainfall is much higher with the area around Topaz recording some of the highest annual rainfall in Australia. Temperatures are also lower with a range of between 17 and 25ºC from September to June and between 5 and 14ºC from July to August.
The considerable range in elevation, rainfall and soil types has produced an incredibly diverse and beautiful region. There is a prolific diversity in natural flora and fauna, ranging from tropical highland rainforests to dry tropical savannah.
Water, soils and diverse growing conditions have supported development of a wide range of agricultural and horticultural cropping operations. The region’s farmers and support services represent, in most cases, best international practice in farming in a tropical environment.
Water supplied from Tinaroo Dam enables a tremendous range of fruit and vegetables to be grown to supply both the domestic and overseas markets.
The range of crops grown is truly amazing and includes avocados, bananas, cashews, citrus, coffee, cow pea, custard apples, dolichos, flowers, fresh herbs, grapes, grass seed, legume seed, lettuce, longans, lychees, macadamia, maize, mangoes, mixed vegetables, navy beans, potatoes, passionfruit, papaya, peaches, peanuts, pineapples, pumpkins, sorghum, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, tea tree, tomatoes, native trees, turf and watermelons.
The cattle industry also plays a significant role in the region’s economy and in recent years the value of animals produced in the region has been approximately $35 million per annum.
To the south, around the Malanda/Millaa Millaa area, the dairy industry is significant and the Atherton Tablelands dairy industry is the only tropical dairy industry in Australia and one of the few globally. Other agriculture based industries include poultry, fruit wineries, aquaculture and timber.