Kempsey, New South Wales

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New South Wales
Kempsey is located in New South Wales
Coordinates 31°5′S 152°50′E / 31.083°S 152.833°E / -31.083; 152.833Coordinates: 31°5′S 152°50′E / 31.083°S 152.833°E / -31.083; 152.833
Population 8,137 (2006)[1]
Established 1836
Postcode(s) 2440
Elevation 1 m (3 ft)
Location 345 km (214 mi) from Sydney
LGA(s) Kempsey Shire
State electorate(s) Oxley[2]
Federal Division(s) Cowper[3]
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
25.0 °C
77 °F
12.1 °C
54 °F
1,220.5 mm
48.1 in

Kempsey is a town in the Mid North Coast region of New South Wales, Australia and is the council seat for Kempsey Shire. It is located 15 kilometres inland from the coast of the Pacific Ocean where the Pacific Highway and the North Coast railway line cross the Macleay River. It is roughly 345 kilometres north of Sydney.

Kempsey History[edit]

Dunghutti People[edit]

The Dunghutti People were the indigenous inhabitants of the Macleay Valley and were hunters and gatherers. They shared a common language and organised themselves into smaller groups regularly living together.

Sea levels fell and then began to rise about 18,000 years ago, stabilising at their present position roughly 6,000 years ago. At this time the present day Macleay Valley floodplain was an estuary fringed by sandy beaches and Pleistocene cliffs. It has since been filled by alluvial deposition.

Kempsey Shire has a high proportion of Aboriginals residing within its boundaries.

In the Clybucca area there are ancient camp sites with shell beds in the form of mounds which are up to two metres high. These are places where kitchen waste was placed in orderly fashion. The accumulation of these middens was started some 11,000 years ago and abandoned when the sea began to recede. Food was plentiful especially in the lower Macleay. Climate accounted for movement. The people in the colder climates of the upper Macleay could easily move into warmer places on the floor of the valley during winter. There are significant sites remaining in the Dunghutti land away from ground which has been cultivated. Stone implements have been found which give evidence of antiquity. Spears, boomerangs, shields, digging sticks, water and food carriers have been collected. In the colder areas cloaks were made from possum skins. Sacred sites were marked with carved trees and stone arrangements.

Gatherings took place to celebrate ceremonies to mark special events in the lives of the people. The last great gathering took place towards the end of the nineteenth century. Other language groups from north and south of the Macleay gathered near Smoky Range not long before the last marked tree was cut down and taken to the Australian Museum for preservation.

The Dunghutti People will always be remembered as the first people to achieve a native title consent determination in Australia.

European Settlement[edit]

Enoch William Rudder is credited with founding the settlement. He arrived from Birmingham in 1834 and bought land on the southern bank of the river in 1836, at what was then the limit of authorized settlement (the boundary of County Macquarie). He was initially attracted by red cedar cutting opportunities but planned also to profit by selling parts of his land. He had riverside blocks surveyed and established a private town, with the first blocks sold in November 1836. He called it Kempsey because the surrounding areas reminded him of the Kempsey Valley in Worcestershire.[4] The collapse in red cedar prices in the early 1840s nearly led to the failure of the town.[5][6]

The main (and most flood-prone) part of Kempsey was founded by John Verge, sub-dividing a grant on the flood-plain opposite Rudder's settlement. In 1854, a government town was surveyed at West Kempsey and government facilities moved there when it became clear that no town would form around the police station and courthouse at Belgrave Falls. Rudder's settlement was renamed East Kempsey.[citation needed]

Kempsey initially flourished as a centre for logging and sawmilling. Large reserves of Australian red cedar Toona australis, sold in Britain and the USA (as 'Indian mahogany') were extracted down until the 1920s, and with greater difficulty until the 1960s, by which time the resource was effectively exhausted. Dairying was the major industry in the area until the 1960s, with a Nestlé Milo factory at nearby Smithtown, and several cheese and butter factories. The area now boasts many industries including beef cattle production and tourism.[citation needed]


Climate data for Kempsey (Kempsey Wide Street, 1882–2013)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 43.0
Average high °C (°F) 29.2
Average low °C (°F) 17.7
Record low °C (°F) 8.3
Average rainfall mm (inches) 134.8
Avg. precipitation days 11.1 11.6 12.7 10.1 8.8 7.7 6.7 6.5 6.7 8.8 9.8 10.8 111.3
Avg. relative humidity (%) 60 62 62 60 58 56 53 49 53 55 59 59 57
Source: Bureau of Meteorology[7]


Geographically, Kempsey stretches out around a long loop of the Macleay River at the top of the flood-plain. It is famous for its floods. The 1949 flood was particularly destructive, having washed a large part of the town centre away when the railway viaduct which was acting as a dam-wall due to a build-up of debris against the railway bridge gave way. The area most affected by this flood is now the site of playing fields. The shire council has a policy of buying up land in areas designated as flood plains and many houses have been transported to higher ground in recent years. Other major floods occurred in 1949, 1950, 1963, 2001, 2009, 2013.

Kempsey today[edit]

Despite a period of economic stagnation in past decades compared to nearby coastal centres of growth, Kempsey has a growing local economy based on tourism, farming and service industries. As a local centre it has many shops and services including three major supermarkets, a department store and fast food chain stores such as Subway. A large industrial estate is located in South Kempsey and is the site of the Akubra hat factory and former King Gee clothing company.[citation needed]

A Coles Supermarket development (known as the Kempsey Central Shopping Centre) has been built recently in Kempsey and is situated where the Tattersalls Hotel and various small businesses were in Little Belgrave Street. It consists of a Coles supermarket, a Target Country, 12 speciality stores, and a large cafe.[citation needed] This shopping centre opened on 6 December 2008.

Growing industries include wineries and nut production. Kempsey is a service centre for the nearby coastal resorts of South West Rocks, Arakoon, Hat Head, and Crescent Head, which are popular places for retirees and holiday-makers alike.

Government buildings such as the council chambers, library and several offices - are located west of the North Coast Railway line in West Kempsey. This area is not subject to the flooding that the CBD occasionally sees and is seen as a second business district with a variety of businesses and banking facilities. Opened in July 2004, the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre, a minimum to medium prison for 500 male and female inmates, is located in Aldavilla, approximately 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) west of Kempsey.

Until a new 14.5 kilometre bypass opened on 27 March 2013, the Pacific Highway passed through Kempsey. The new bypass included a 3.2 kilometre bridge, the longest in Australia.[8][9]


Primary schools[edit]

High schools[edit]

Notable people from Kempsey[edit]



The Macleay Argus is the local newspaper for Kempsey and other nearby towns in the Macleay Valley area. It is published every Tuesday and Friday by Fairfax Media.

Radio stations

The following radio stations have transmitters located in or near Kempsey:



  • SKY Sports Radio 101.5 FM (2KY) (narrowcast)
  • Tank FM 103.1 FM (2WET) (community)
  • Star FM 105.1 FM (2ROX) (commercial)
  • 2MC 106.7 FM (2PQQ) (commercial)

The following high power FM transmitters serve the region more generally but are not located in or near Kempsey:

Depending on location, reception of stations from the Manning River transmitter located at Middlebrother Mountain northeast of Taree is also possible.

Television stations

Residences in Kempsey generally receive television from the Mt Moombil Transmitter located west of Coffs Harbour. Depending on the location it may also be possible to receive a signal from Middlebrother Mountain.

The following networks broadcast in this region of NSW:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Kempsey (Urban Centre/Locality)". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  2. ^ "Oxley Electoral District". New South Wales Electoral Commission. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  3. ^ "Cowper". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  4. ^ "Kempsey". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Valley of the Macleay, Marie H. Neil, 1972, ISBN 0-85587-037-0
  6. ^ "Kempsey". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2004-02-08. 
  7. ^ "Kempsey Wide Street". Climate statistics for Australian locations. Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  8. ^ [ "Kempsey bypass open" ABC News 27 March 2013
  9. ^ Kempsey bypass completed Roads & Maritime Services
  10. ^ "Tom Keneally, interviewed by Peter Thompson". Talking Heads. ABC Television. 30 July 2007. Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  11. ^ Helen, Maxwell (1993). "Dangar, Anne Garvin (1885–1951)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved March 2015. 
  12. ^ Morris, Barry (2005). "Moseley, Percival (Percy) (1880-1942)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  13. ^ Broome, Richard (2002). "Sands, David (Dave) (1926-1952)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 

External links[edit]

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