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

The Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday region’s growth is fuelled by strong activity in the resources sector, and agribusiness, construction, logistics and tourism and is the gateway to the rich coal deposits in the Bowen and Galilee Basins.

Mackay is the major urban centre of the region, home to the majority of the region’s total population of some 116,000. Other major centres include Bowen, Moranbah, Proserpine, Sarina, Airlie Beach and Cannonvale.1

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, situated 25 km north-west of Bowen and with a current export capacity of 50 million tonnes per year.2

There are emerging opportunities in the region for alternative energy, fuels and bio-based industrial products, which will require development of pipeline, transport, and electricity generation and distribution infrastructure, and a growing demand for skills in engineering and construction trades.

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 and established markets. Horticulture is also strong, as the region represents one of Australia’s leading winter vegetable growing areas.3

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 includes 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 a number of firms that 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.4

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.


1Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, 2016, ‘Queensland Regional Profiles – SA4 (Mackay, Isaac, Whitsunday)’, https://statistics.qgso.qld.gov.au/qld-regional-profiles, accessed July 2020.

2North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, 2019, ‘Port of Abbot Point’, https://nqbp.com.au/our-ports/abbot-point, accessed July 2020.

3Queensland Government Department of Regional Development and Manufacturing, June 2020, ‘Our regions – Mackay Isaac Whitsunday’, https://statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/regions/queensland/mackay-isaac-whitsunday, accessed July 2020.

4Mackay Regional Council, July 2017, ‘Invest Mackay’, https://www.mackay.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/216501/INVEST_MACKAY_2018_OCT_DIGITAL.PDF, accessed July 2020.