Located just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, the Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday region is in the heart of the magnificent Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. The region is renowned for its scenic beaches, relaxed tropical lifestyle and recreational attractions, and its economy is dominated by mining, tourism and agriculture.

Economy and infrastructure

Covering an area of around 90,000km2, Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday has the highest gross regional product of any regional area in Queensland. Mackay is the major urban centre of the region, home to almost half the region’s total population of some 180,000. Other major centres include Bowen, Moranbah, Proserpine, Sarina, Airlie Beach and Cannonvale.

Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday has experienced population and economic growth fuelled by global demand for the resources that are mined in the west and the specialty mining and engineering services that support the industry.

Regional strengths centre on specialty mining and engineering services, driven by world demand for energy. In the Whitsunday region, tourism is the largest sector, with an emphasis on lifestyle and high-quality food production.

Mackay’s general cargo port is vital for fuel distribution into resource areas, with coal ports at both Hay Point and Abbott Point. There are opportunities to use both developed and undeveloped industrial land at the Port of Mackay for activities relating to:

  • sugar, grain and fuel
  • the shipping function of the port
  • other port-related industrial development
  • marine services activity
  • cold storage facilities.

Abbot Point is Australia’s most northerly deep-water coal port. Over the next 20 years the Queensland coal industry will be increasing production to around 340 million tonnes per year with Abbot Point meeting a large portion of the required port capacity. This will help Queensland meet the growing global demand for our high-quality coal.

The Queensland mining industry is supported by these major ports in a variety of ways. The proximity to deep water ports, a competitive rail system, bulk water and a low cost, reliable electricity supply have combined to help establish the region as a major hub for energy-intensive mineral processing industries, particularly alumina, aluminium and magnesia.

Queensland’s crop-producing lands are among Australia’s most valuable, and their expansion will see growing demand for transport infrastructure in the area that allows produce to be kept fresh for domestic and overseas markets.

Industry growth areas

Mining and resources

Mackay and Moranbah are major service centres for the region and support the coal mining operations of the Bowen and Galilee basins. The Bowen Basin is home to some of the world’s best quality coal reserves and is the largest coal reserve in Australia.

New activity in the Galilee Basin and opportunities in alternative energy, fuels and bio-based industrial products will see this area expand its coal interests to also become a leading producer of bio-based products in the Asia-Pacific by 2020. Expansion will require development of pipeline, transport, and electricity generation and distribution infrastructure. Skills such as engineering and construction trades will continue to be in demand.

Food and agribusiness

The Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday region has a resilient agricultural sector and is one of Queensland’s largest and longest-established sugar regions, with extensive, integrated transport facilities, established markets and 5 milling facilities. Horticulture is also strong, as the region represents one of Australia’s leading winter vegetable growing areas.

The main areas of sugar cane production are Mackay City, Sarina, Mirani, Whitsunday and the Western region of Isaac. As well, the Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday Region is home to 5 sugar mills – Racecourse, Proserpine, Farleigh, Sarina and Marian. These mills produce around 420,000 tonnes of refined sugar per year, which is approximately one third of the total refined sugar in Australia.

Growing global demand for bio-fuels is increasing demand for sugar cane production and placing upward pressure on prices. With some overseas sugar cane producers focusing on to ethanol production rather than sugar, this may reduce international supply and, as a result, increase demand for Australian sugar.

Major horticultural commodities include tomatoes, capsicums, beans, corn, eggplants and pumpkins. In summer the region is famous for its fruit and nuts, especially mangoes and macadamias.

The established sugar and agricultural industries, along with a resources-based economy, provide a strong foundation for regional industry expansion. Opportunities exist to add further value to produce prior to export.


The manufacturing industry is the fifth-largest employer of residents in the Whitsunday region, accounting for 8% of the labour force. Manufacturing is mainly heavy fabrication and mining-related maintenance, supporting the industry through all stages of the mining process from exploration to mine site rehabilitation.

The region boasts 20 training firms that can deliver high growth services like mining safety and risk management for manufacturing companies. Another feature of the region is Paget Industrial Estate, which is home to a range of engineering companies, many of which export services and equipment to countries including China, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and Ghana.

International education and training

The region boasts around 20 training firms that can deliver high growth services like mining safety and risk management for manufacturing companies.

International education and training interests in the region are serviced by the Study Greater Whitsundays regional study cluster supported by TIQ.


With the unspoilt beauty of the World Heritage-Listed Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands, lush national parks and white sandy beaches, Mackay Isaac Whitsunday is a tourist hotspot.

Water-based activities including sailing, diving and fishing are a major drawcard. The region is known for some of Australia’s best big game and deep-sea fishing and its location at the meeting point of both southern and northern fish species means there is a vast variety of fish on offer.

Trade and investment services

The region is serviced by TIQ’s Mackay Office.