Southern Downs Regional Council was formed in 2008 by the amalgamation of Stanthorpe and Warwick Shires. The new council extends along the New South Wales border from the Main Range National Park, east of Killarney, to beyond the Girraween National Park. In fact, well over half of the Southern Downs Regional Council is border ranges and foothills, and the remainder in the north is the true Southern Downs. The ranges enclose the headwaters of the Condamine River (the most northerly part of the Murray Darling system), and can claim to have four seasons. Stanthorpe township is 30 km from the border and Warwick is 80 km.
European settlement of the Warwick district began before 1850, and the town of Warwick had municipal government by 1861. Warwick Shire was formed in 1994 by the amalgamation of Glengallan Shire (1879), Rosenthal Shire (1879), Allora Shire (1915), (formed by excision from Clifton Shire) and Warwick City (city status attained in 1935).
Warwick was linked to Toowoomba by rail in 1871. In the 1880s branch lines were opened from Warwick to Stanthorpe (1881), to Killarney (1885) and beyond Stanthorpe to the border (1887). Various branch and spur lines came later: east from the main line to Allora (1897) and Goomburra (1912); west from Warwick to Karara (1904) and Inglewood (1907); north-east from Warwick to Maryvale (1911); and to the west of Stanthorpe to the soldier-settlement farms of Pozieres and Amiens. The moist climate encouraged closer-settlement along the numerous valleys, and the branch railways were laid down to transport the produce and livestock. They have been closed, and only the western line to Inglewood and the southern line to Stanthorpe continue. Beyond Stanthorpe it is freight-only, and passengers can no longer marvel at the Wallangarra border customs post.
Statistical data for the two shires was:
In Stanthorpe Shire 28% of total employment was in agriculture (2001). Orcharding accounted for nearly half of the workforce, followed by vegetable-growing and grazing (mainly sheep). In Warwick Shire 15.4% of total employment was in agriculture, mainly beef cattle, sheep and pigs, cereals and fodder. Warwick township is the regional shopping centre: 23% of the shire's workforce was in wholesale and retail distribution; in Stanthorpe shire it was 17.5%.
Religious affiliation in both shires was above the Australian average. The main denominations were:
Stanthorpe and Warwick Shires entries