FNQ Regional Priorities

2023 Regional Sitting of Queensland Parliament in Cairns

In anticipation of the May regional sitting of Queensland Parliament in Cairns, the region’s key bodies have collaborated to identify a list of key initiatives which support the ongoing economic growth of the region. This summary identifies short-term initiatives with whole of region implications. It is not exhaustive.

Cairns Skills and Workforce Planning
Key proponent: Cairns Regional Jobs Committee

Acute workforce and skills shortages are being experienced across the Cairns region. Without action, these shortages will be a major impediment to economic growth and prosperity. Effective skills and workforce planning is required to address this challenge. The Cairns Region Workforce Plan would initially focus on two of the region’s high-value/high-growth potential sectors (Aviation and Marine) as well as the Construction sector, which plays a critical role in the effective delivery of infrastructure and housing. The plan would quantify skills and workforce gaps and the action needed to address them. There is potential for the plan to be expanded to additional sectors following the initial phase.

Queensland Government commit to support the preparation of the Cairns Region Workforce Plan for the Aviation, Marine and Construction Sectors through either: direct preparation of the Plan by Jobs Queensland (preferred); or provision of funding (est. $250k) to enable an independent consultant to be engaged to prepare the Plan.

Defence Industry Strategy
Key proponent: Advance Cairns and Cairns Regional Council

Fund a comprehensive Cairns and Far North Queensland Defence Industry Strategy to identify and maximise the economic opportunities for the region generated as a result of Defence investment.

Defence is a significant stakeholder in the development of Northern Australia and Cairns is the regional hub for defence and national security activity in Far North Queensland. This strategy will guide the ongoing development of, and investment in, defence support industries in the region. It will also guide coordinated activities across all three tiers of government, support the State in delivering its 10-year Defence Industries Roadmap and Action Plan via industry capability development, and ensure the region sustainably responds to the outcomes/objectives of Plan Galileo and the Defence Strategic Review.

$100k matched funding to partner with Cairns Regional Council, Advance Cairns and other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive Cairns and Far North Queensland Defence Industry Strategy.

Housing in remote and discrete Indigenous communities
Key proponent: Torres Cape Indigenous Council Alliance and FNQROC

Many Indigenous people living in our region already face more than a 20-year gap in health adjusted life expectancy compared to the total Queensland population. People are dying from entirely preventable diseases because of poverty and disadvantage which can be linked directly to poor housing conditions, overcrowding and homelessness. Access to safe and secure houses is critical if the disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the non-Indigenous population is to be closed and lives improved for the long term.

That the Queensland Government works cooperatively with the Australian Government under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap on a new long-term agreement to support the delivery of new housing in remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Importantly, any partnership agreement must consider and provide for the costs of negotiating Indigenous Land Use Agreements and the capital costs of trunk infrastructure necessary to support new housing developments. Many communities are constrained by land tenure issues and the need to negotiate with Land Trusts and Traditional Owners for access to land for new housing. These issues must be addressed within policy development and planning for remote Indigenous housing.

Cairns and TNQ - Destination Mountain Biking
Key proponent: Tourism Tropical North Queensland and Cairns Regional Council

Mountain bike (MTB) tourism is a high value tourism market with significant growth potential for Cairns and Far North Queensland. Cairns hosts a series of high profile mountain biking events including the Crankworx Cairns event and the Reef to Reef 4-day MTB event. Two key initiatives would support further economic and jobs growth in the tourism and related sectors, and also deliver benefits for the local community.

Crankworx Cairns
In 2022, Cairns became the fourth stop on the Crankworx World Tour, generating an economic impact of $7.7m, delivering 25,307 visitor nights and attracting 3,711 ‘out of region’ visitors. With the current funding agreement set to expire after this year’s event, a sustainable funding arrangement is vital to secure the event for 2024 and beyond.

Smithfield MTB Trail Network Expansion
A proposed expansion of the Smithfield trail network from 30km to 82km, as outlined in the Smithfield MTB Expansion Concept report, would provide Cairns with the critical trail mass required to compete as a national and international MTB destination. With the concept works and an economic analysis demonstrating project feasibility, detailed planning work is now required to ensure the project is investment-ready.

Crankworx Cairns: an additional $300k for 2024 and at least 70% of event costs funded for future events.
Smithfield MTB Trail Network Expansion: Qld Government to progress the Smithfield MTB Trail Network Expansion Project to investment ready stage working with Council, TTNQ and stakeholders.

TAFE Qld Great Barrier Reef International Marine College Campus expansion
Key proponent: Advance Cairns

The TAFE Great Barrier Reef International Marine College (GBRIMC) continues to expand its range of innovative marine training capabilities, offering domestic and international students specialised maritime training, including the delivery of Defence’s Pacific Maritime Training Services.

Combined with the ongoing provision of mandatory training for mariners across commercial and defence vessels, a material maritime skills shortage and anticipated training required to support the recent establishment of Regional Maintenance Centre North East, this means the current campus will be well over capacity.

In order to meet training requirements, a GBRIMC Business Case has outlined that $15-20m is needed to facilitate the extension using land adjacent to the existing premises.

The Queensland Government supports the expansion of the GBRIMC with an investment of $20m, vital in the delivery of addressing a skilled maritime workforce shortage.

Kuranda Range Road
Key proponent: FNQROC

Kuranda Range Road is now demonstrably stifling economic development and urban growth in the Cairns, Mareeba, Cape York Peninsula, Atherton Tablelands and Gulf Savannah regions. If work started today to identify a solution to cater for increased capacity and heavy vehicle efficiency it would be 10 years before the benefits would be realised. It is critical that the process of a Preliminary Evaluation and Business Case is started today.

We’re asking that $20m from the Federally committed $210m be used to commence these studies to identify a solution.

The Queensland Government commits to allocating $20m of the Federal $210m towards undertaking a Preliminary Evaluation and Business Case.

Hydrogen and Sustainable Fuels Business Case
Key proponent: Regional Development Australia Tropical North

Tourism, agriculture, mining, education, and healthcare sectors significantly drive the FNQ region’s economy.

With the region’s economy being reliant on these sectors (excluding healthcare), there is a growing interest in developing sustainable and renewable energy solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality.

These sectors could benefit from the use of green hydrogen as a low-carbon energy source. The project involves the evaluation of opportunities for the adoption of green hydrogen in these industries and includes the identification of energy-intensive processes, equipment and services, existing and required future infrastructure for transport, storage and use of green hydrogen, the regulatory environment, the existing and required future skills base, demand drivers and obstacles, and opportunities for Indigenous participation in the local green hydrogen economy.

The study will also include a specific focus on the agricultural sector, to investigate the potential for the region to produce feedstock for heavy transport sustainable fuels (i.e. Aviation, trucks, marine).

$1.1m – this is in addition to the financial commitment sought from the Australian Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) for a study into the conversion of the Reef Fleet.

Etheridge Agricultural and Irrigation Precinct (EAIP)
Key proponent: Etheridge Shire Council

The objective of the EAIP is to create a discrete agricultural zone for improved planning and development assessment within the loose boundaries of the Etheridge LGA, to promote and develop the region’s economic potential.

The project provides a very real opportunity to develop Indigenous held lands for economic participation and return to Country.

There is a potential 498,000ML of water for irrigation. The project requires insights about the most effective water development options (e.g. in-river and off-stream dams, overland flow, weirs).

The potential to increase dryland cropping and irrigation across the precinct, could inject more than $880m into the regional economy, with a multiplier effect this could add close to $1billion to GDP.

In addition to identifying a suite of water infrastructure projects, the project will research and establish a new planning framework that involves the ‘pre-approval’ of designated areas for sustainable high value cropping and beef production.

The Queensland Government commits to the next stage of the EAIP:

   Confirms that the EAIP is a priority project for the State;

–   $175k as co-contribution towards the options analysis stage of the NWGA Investment Framework;

–   Forwarding a submission for a further $175k from the NWGA (as part of Stage 2 of the NWGA Water Development Planning work in the Gulf), to
support ESC in the options analysis stage and capacity to realise the full potential of the Precinct as part of the FNQ Regional Planning process;

   Position the project as a pilot which can be used by both State and Federal governments as a means of addressing barriers to economic
development; and

–   High level cross-State government representatives to sit on a Mobilisation Taskforce to drive the project forward.