Major features of the Derwent Valley municipality include its land and fresh water resources. The region has lakes and river water supplies and productive soils. Some of the other features of the Derwent Valley municipality are:-
- its people - the population is around 10,300;
- its workforce - skilled and semi-skilled forestry, agricultural, heath care and service industry workers;
- its land and fresh water resources - the region has lakes and river water supplies and productive soils;
- its farmland and agricultural industries - the region has traditional farming of beef and sheep, an internationally competitive hop industry as well as emerging specialties agriculture such as essential oils and cherries;
- its wilderness and natural areas - the region has national and world standard parks and conservation areas;
- its lakes, rivers and water storages - the region has hydro electricity generation operations as well as fresh water fishing and related recreational and tourism activities;
- its unique river valley environments - the region has spectacular mountain and river landscapes and is a popular rural residential area and scenic area for tourism;
- its proximity to the Hobart metropolitan area - the area is approximately 30 minutes from Hobart which provides opportunities for employment, services and potential growth, and;
- its history - first settled by Norfolk Islanders as early as 1807. The Valley has retained a fine array of colonial architecture ranging in variety from oast houses, humble cottages, grand mansions, and a heritage railway linking many of our historic towns and villages, Mt Field National Park and Hobart.
Prior to European settlement, the midlands Aborigines, known as the Big River people, inhabited an extensive region from the Derwent Valley through to the Central Highlands, including the Great Lake and the Great Western Tiers. The Big River people supported five bands, four of which were based along the Derwent River.
The settlement of New Norfolk was brought about by the settling of the Norfolk Islanders in the years 1807 to 1808. Governor Macquarie visited the area in 1811 and he ordered his surveyors to lay out a township which he named Elizabeth Town (now New Norfolk). In those early years, New Norfolk was the second (to Hobart) population centre in the South.
Historic buildings of wood and stone are littered throughout the Derwent Valley. Buildings include oast houses, kilns and farm building, homesteads and Willow Court. Many of these are classified or registered by the National Trust and are listed in the Council's Planning Scheme.
Early buildings of significance included the local inn, now known as the Bush Inn, and the Anglican Church of St Matthews. The first road was constructed from Hobart to New Norfolk in 1818 - 1819. Previously settlers had relied on the Derwent River to transport produce and to travel to Hobart. A railway connecting New Norfolk to Hobart, the Derwent Valley Line, was built in 1887. The New Norfolk line also connected to Maydena and the Florentine Valley.
Health service provision in New Norfolk dates back to early settlement with the establishment of a local hospital in the area in the 1820s. In the 1830s a military invalid hospital was moved from Hobart to New Norfolk and an asylum was built as an additional wing.
During the Second World War, Norske Skog (formerly Australian Newsprint Mills) established a large newsprint mill at Boyer, downstream from New Norfolk. The company acquired substantial land on the eastern shore of the Derwent River and built a large number of houses, gradually purchased by the employees. The company also built local amenities such as the Boyer Oval, tennis courts and badminton facilities. The ownership of these facilities have since been taken over by the Derwent Valley Council.
The hop industry in the Derwent Valley was a significant primary industry and remains so today. The Shoobridge family contributed to the wealth and progress of hop growing in the Derwent Valley from 1849. The first record of hops in the agricultural returns of Tasmania was in the year 1854. The Shoobridge family farmed Bushy Park properties for the next seven decades, 65 years of which centred around continuous hop production. It became the most successful hop growing area in the southern hemisphere.
The town of New Norfolk was seen as (and still is) the major rural regional centre of the Derwent Valley region.