Palaszczuk Government to declare Cairns South a special economic zone

The Palaszczuk Government will declare an 856-hectare parcel of land south of Cairns a State Development Area (SDA) to support the future growth and diversification of the Cairns economy.

The proposed Cairns South SDA is east of the Bruce Highway and north of Gordonvale at Wrights Creek.

Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said declaring an SDA would safeguard land to ensure it is utilised to support industry and create jobs.

“We want the Cairns community to be able to participate in the economy of the future including capitalising on the advanced manufacturing, biofutures, biomedical and defence related industries, but we need guaranteed industrial land to achieve this,” he said.

“Our projections indicate that without this special economic zone being declared, the Cairns region will run out of viable industrial land, and that will, in turn, limit economic opportunities in the region which will lead to fewer jobs.

“Recent positive sales results of industrial land at the Woree industrial estate demonstrate that there is confidence in the Cairns economy and that confidence is driving investment.

“We want to keep it that way by making sure we have the right amount of industrial and commercial land into the future.

“If we’re going to deliver the jobs of the future for Cairns in advanced manufacturing, high-end tourism and agriculture, we’ve got to make sure Cairns has got the right amount of industrial land available to capitalise on opportunities.”

Mr Dick said Queensland’s independent Coordinator-General has been working with Council and other key stakeholders like MSF Sugar to explore the possibility for an SDA to safeguard economic growth.

“It’s very important we get this right, because if our forecasts are too low, and we don’t set aside enough land, Far North Queensland will miss out on future economic growth and jobs, and it will be the community that suffers the consequences,” Mr Dick said.

“If we assume that Cairns won’t grow and don’t plan for it do to so, then this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – quite simply, growth cannot occur.”

Mr Dick said once declared, the SDA will support the region’s growing intermodal and freight related industry, warehousing, heavy and civil engineering businesses, as well as creating an opportunity for development associated with the government’s priority industries of biofutures, advanced manufacturing and defence.

Speaker and Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the SDA had the potential to attract regionally significant industrial development to the area and ensure the southern Cairns growth corridor had the right land available to harness those opportunities when they present, including opportunities supporting agricultural industry.

“The SDA is far more than an industrial park. It’s an opportunity to develop current and future industries – including agriculture – by integrating major highway upgrades with available industrial land and the development of a transport logistics hub,” he said.

“As a result of feedback from MSF Sugar and local growers, around 60 per cent of the SDA will either be protected for rural purposes to support cane supply to the mill or set aside for environmental purposes.

“I am pleased that there will be parcels of land that will be used for agricultural purposes, which will be welcome news for those who want to see the Mulgrave Mill and agriculture-reliant regional projects continue to thrive.

“Following the declaration, the next step is the preparation of a draft development scheme to plan and regulate development in the SDA.

“During consultation on the development scheme, opportunities for a possible stage two of a State Development Area will be investigated to support MSF Sugar’s diversification plans, which may include a cogeneration plant.

“Importantly, the SDA provides an opportunity for more people to work closer to where they live in Gordonvale and Edmonton, as well as the growing community of Mt Peter.”

Mr Dick said another key advantage of this SDA is its proximity to the Bruce Highway and North Coast rail line, which he said presents a real opportunity to respond to changing trends in the rail freight sector.

“Importantly, within the SDA, the Coordinator-General can make doing business easier for any investors through up-front detailed land use and infrastructure planning and by offering a one-stop shop to streamline development assessment processes,” he said.

“This SDA will bolster the economic future of the city’s southern corridor and surrounds and ensure this valued part of our state is as prepared as possible for the growth we expect it will experience in coming years.”

Public consultation on a draft development scheme for the SDA is expected to occur in the first half of next year.

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