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Radius of Greater Sydney on map
Photograph: Time Out

So what is the difference between Greater Sydney, Metropolitan Sydney and Regional NSW?

Check out where the borders lie, and find out what an LGA is

Written by
Alannah Maher
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In the time since Sydney first went into lockdown (then came out, and then went back into lockdown again) a bunch of once-obscure factoids have entered everyday parlance. Who knew every state had a chief medical officer? Did anyone know how to pronounce 'Berejiklian' before the premier was on our TV screens every morning? And how on earth did we ever get by without QR codes in our life?

Although that's not to say there aren't still a few things left to learn as the 'Rona continues to upend life. For example, there are some geographical terms and acronyms that have popped up a bunch recently that still cause a lot of confusion. So in the spirit of learning, here's a handy breakdown of the subtle yet important distinction between Greater Sydney, Metropolitan Sydney and an LGA, as well as what actually counts as Regional NSW and how the state is divided.

What is Greater Sydney?

This is a vast area stretching from the Hawkesbury to the Northern Beaches regions in the north, to the Blue Mountains in the west, and the Wollondilly, Campbelltown, and Sutherland regions in the south. As the name implies, it covers a ‘greater’ area than what most people would typically consider Sydney, also including the Central Coast up north and Wollongong and Shellharbour down south. 

Map of Greater SydneyPhotograph: NSW Government | Map of Greater Sydney

What is Metropolitan Sydney?

This is closer to what most of us would consider Sydney. It includes the City of Sydney, Waverley, Randwick, Canada Bay, Inner West, Bayside and Woollahra local government areas. It is capped by Hornsby at the north, the Sutherland Shire at the bottom, but does not include areas like the Blue Mountains, the Hawkesbury, or the Central Coast. 

Map of Metropolitan SydneyPhotograph: NSW Government | Map of Metropolitan Sydney

What is an LGA?

AKA ‘local government areas’. These can contain multiple suburbs and localities which are governed by an administrative body (a council). Metropolitan Sydney has 30 LGAs, and each one contains multiple suburbs. The City of Sydney for example contains 33 suburbs, and some of those suburbs are shared with other councils (like Newtown, Annandale, Camperdown, and St Peters, which are shared with the Inner West Council). 

Find out more about your LGA in this local government directory.

What is Regional NSW?

The term ‘regional NSW’ refers to all of the parts of the state that sit outside the metropolitan areas of Greater Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. While Newcastle and the Hunter Valley are often grouped together, the Hunter Valley is classed as regional while the metropolitan city of Newcastle, including the LGAs of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, is categorised separately. 

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment divides NSW up into ten regions, and eight of those are classed as Regional areas. Regions include the Central Coast (starts north of the Hawkesbury River to as far north as Lake Macquarie), the Hunter (sometimes included with the Central Coast, also contains Port Stephens the metropolitan area of Newcastle), the Central West and Orana (includes Broken Hill, Dubbo, Cobar and Mudgee), Illawarra-Shoalhaven (just south of Greater Sydney), the North Coast (includes Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Lismore), New England-North West (west of the North Coast, includes Armidale and Tamworth), the Riverina-Murray (borders Victoria, includes the regional centres of Wagga Wagga and Albury), the South-East Tablelands (stretches from the Snowy Mountains in the north to the Victorian border, includes Bega, Bowral, Goulburn, Yass and Bateman's Bay, the ACT also sits in here), and the Far West (geographically the largest region, it borders South Australia and includes Broken Hill).

Map of NSW regions.Photograph: The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment | Map of NSW regions

Here’s what you can and cannot do in Sydney right now.

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