Far North Queensland is the northernmost part of Queensland, stretching from Cairns up to the Torres Strait. It is Queensland’s largest region, covering 20% of the state. It is also one of the most beautiful and diverse.
As well as the city of Cairns, Far North Queensland encompasses:
- the Wet Tropics — Hinchinbrook, Cassowary Coast, Cairns, Atherton Tableland
- the Gulf — Croydon, Etheridge, Carpentaria, Mornington, Burke
- Cape York — Cook, Aurukun and Torres.
Global megatrends, in particular population and economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region, will drive demand for a range of goods and services, including mineral and energy resources, tourism, education, and food and agribusiness.
At the heart of Far North Queensland, Cairns is a modern tropical city with strong global connections. It is the gateway to the natural beauties of the Great Barrier Reef and World Heritage rainforests, attracting almost 3 million visitors each year.
Cairns also serves as an engineering and manufacturing hub for the resources sector servicing the North West Minerals Province and Papua New Guinea. The engineering and steel fabrication sector provides specialist metal products and machinery and offers equipment manufacturing capabilities to a diverse range of industries.
Economy and infrastructure
Far North Queensland covers a vast and economically diverse area. Key industries are tourism, agriculture, and mining and construction.
Domestic and international tourism contribute billions of dollars each year to the local and Queensland economy.
Cairns is Far North Queensland’s administrative and health services base, servicing 2,400km of Far North Queensland’s coastline, all the way to the top of Cape York Peninsula, and around the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Northern Territory border.
Outside of Cairns, agriculture, livestock, fishing and forestry account for much of the subregional economy. Mining continues to make a major economic contribution, while construction is one of the region’s largest employers. Marine and aviation services are increasingly important sectors. Education is also significant.
Cairns International Airport is serviced by 10 international airlines and provides direct access to many global markets, including Japan, Hong Kong, China and Papua New Guinea. It is Australia’s busiest regional international airport and a gateway to Asia and other world destinations.
Cairns Seaport is located just minutes from the city centre. A multi-purpose port, it caters to cruise shipping, fishing fleets, reef passenger ferries and bulk and general cargo. The port’s bulk cargo includes petroleum products, sugar, fertiliser and liquid petroleum gas.
Industry growth areas
A mecca for tourists, tropical Far North Queensland is the gateway to the natural beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and Cape York, attracting around 2.7 million domestic and international visitors every year. Tourism is a major contributor to the economy, responsible for around 18% of jobs and $2.5 billion of gross regional product.
The region is the third-most important Australian destination for international visitors after Sydney and Melbourne. The largest group of international visitors to the region comes from China, followed by Japan, the USA, UK and Europe.
Visitor expenditure exceeded $1 billion in 2017. The tourism industry is a major employer, and a catalyst for public and private infrastructure development in Far North Queensland.
Food and agribusiness
With abundant fertile land and water supplies, agriculture is an important sector in the region, contributing $863 million to the regional economy.
Leading agricultural export products include raw sugar, live cattle, horticulture (mangoes, avocadoes, lychees and coffee) and tropical pasture seed. Peanuts and macadamias are sent to South East Queensland for processing and export.
Far North Queensland is a global leader in tropical agriculture practice, with processes, insights and innovations that are leading the way for tropical economies.
A large fishing industry supplies Asian and domestic markets with fresh and frozen product, while the aquaculture industry focuses on prawns, barramundi and red claw, primarily for local markets.
A small food-manufacturing sector produces mostly dried tropical fruits, a large range of fruit wines and liqueurs, Australian native fruit condiments, vanilla bean and flavoured products, and specialty cheeses.
Mining and resources
The mining industry contributes A$860 million to the regional economy. The North West Minerals Province and nearby Papua New Guinea have attracted a growing cluster of mining services to the region.
Cairns is an ideal engineering and manufacturing hub for the booming resource sector of the Oceania-Australasia region. The engineering and steel fabrication sector provides specialist metal products and machinery and offer equipment manufacturing capabilities to a diverse range of industries.
The region has a diverse and highly capable building and construction sector, which is one of the largest industry employers in Cairns.
Approximately 3,000 of the region’s businesses are involved in the construction industry. Environmental sustainability, tropical design and liveability are driving the development of innovative building solutions in the region.
Cairns is home to a large maritime servicing and shipbuilding sector catering to the Pacific market, based around fishing and reef fleets, small craft and super yachts, cargo vessels and cruise liners.
Cairns offers ship repair services as well as ancillary services including ship building, maintenance, training and coastal shipping.
The region’s aviation industry has grown steadily over the past 20 years and continues to demonstrate strong growth, enhanced by the tourism industry. Many supply-chain industries have developed to support the aviation industry, including flight catering, engineering, trucking, logistics and air transport.
Equipment installation, maintenance and training have also been developed to service the industry. Cairns has the only recognised service facility for Bombardier’s Dash 8 Q-Series aircraft in the southern hemisphere and boasts the largest avionics facility in Australia. Cairns Aviation Skills Centre is a major training institution for aircraft engineers and technical support staff, attracting students from around Australia and the world.
International education and training
The Cairns region boasts the world-renowned James Cook University, CQUniversity’s Cairns campus, and the state-of-the-art TAFE North.
The diversity of education options is immense, with more than 140 schools, while the training capability of the region spans the marine, aviation, mining, tourism and hospitality sectors.
International students make up an increasingly important part of the local education economy, with 32,000 international students studying in Cairns in 2016.
International education and training interests in the region are serviced by the Study Cairns regional study cluster supported by TIQ.
Trade and investment services
Far North Queensland is serviced by TIQ’s Cairns Office. To find out about more Queensland’s opportunities and competitive advantages, see the Queensland: Endless Opportunities investment prospectus.