The Cairns South State Development Area (SDA) was established to provide land for regionally significant industrial development. Declared in November 2018 and varied in February 2020, the 1159-hectare Cairns South SDA is located over two separate areas. The SDA will facilitate economic growth and diversification of the Cairns economy as well as job creation to support the long-term needs of the Cairns region.

The northern part of the Cairns South SDA is located east of the Bruce Highway between Edmonton and Gordonvale at Wrights Creek and will enable the development of industries that require large blocks of land, extended operating hours and separation from sensitive land uses. Being adjacent to the Bruce Highway and North Coast Line, this part of the SDA offers a key opportunity to support anticipated trends and growths in the rail freight sector, including increased volumes of freight and longer trains.

The southern part of the SDA is located adjacent to the Mulgrave Mill in Gordonvale and will support future diversification plans for the Mulgrave Mill, including industrial development opportunities that value-add to the sugar refining process.

A significant portion of land in the SDA across both areas is intended for the ongoing cultivation of sugar cane and supply to the Mulgrave Mill, to act as a buffer for industry, protect the Mulgrave Mill from the pressures of urban encroachment, or for environmental management purposes.

Cairns South SDA Development Scheme approved

The Cairns South SDA Development Scheme (PDF icon 536 KB) came into effect on 13 March 2020 following a comprehensive assessment of development opportunities and constraints, stakeholder engagement, public consultation and thorough review and analysis of all submissions received.

The development scheme seeks to:

  • provide land for regionally significant industry, including intermodal and rail dependent opportunities
  • accommodate the Mulgrave Mill’s diversification strategy and promote a mix of industrial uses which are dependent on Mulgrave Mill’s by-products, energy, waste and/ or water
  • support the Queensland Government’s priority sectors
  • protect transport and support services required to facilitate the ongoing operation of the Mulgrave Mill
  • sustain rural production and protect cane supply to the Mulgrave Mill
  • protect the integrity of the Gordonvale Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • protect environmental, cultural heritage and community values
  • streamline development assessment processes.

Public consultation

The Coordinator-General invited the public to have their say on the potential SDA expansion around the Mulgrave Mill in Gordonvale and the draft Cairns South SDA Development Scheme (PDF icon 2.5 MB) from 10 September 2019 to 11 October 2019.

Following public consultation and consideration of submissions:

  • the Cairns South SDA was varied by regulation on 21 February 2020 to include an additional 303 hectares of land around the Mulgrave Mill in Gordonvale
  • the Cairns South SDA Development Scheme came into effect on 13 March 2020.

View the Summary of public consultation (PDF icon 187 KB) for an overview of the matters considered in response to the consultation.

Benefits of the Cairns South SDA

The Cairns South SDA provides benefits to business and industry looking to invest in Queensland such as:

  • locational advantages including direct access to the North Coast Line and Bruce Highway
  • efficient use of land, including opportunity for:
    • facilitation of intermodal and freight related development
    • large-scale regionally significant industrial development
    • bio-industrial development to co-locate with the Mulgrave Mill
  • proximity to employment catchments and major support services
  • streamlined assessment processes for applications and requests for development in the SDA
  • regulation of material change of use, reconfiguring a lot, and operational work (in certain circumstances) to improve development coordination and reduce the regulatory burden on proponents
  • best practice land-use planning and management – ensuring land and infrastructure are attractive to potential investors.

The Cairns South SDA supports economic growth and employment opportunities in the Far North Queensland region in a way that considers environmental, cultural, and social issues as well as existing land uses and surrounding infrastructure.

The Cairns South SDA Development Scheme

The Cairns South SDA Development Scheme (PDF icon 536 KB) is a regulatory document that controls planning and development in the Cairns South SDA. It was approved by the Governor in Council in March 2020.

The development scheme contains a development assessment framework for making, assessing and deciding applications and requests relating to development in the Cairns South SDA. The most common of these is an SDA application for a material change of use.

The development scheme is supported by a public consultation policy (PDF icon 66 KB) that provides information on matters the Coordinator-General may consider when determining whether public consultation of an SDA application is required.

The Cairns South SDA maps and targeted land use precincts


Land ownership

Further information

For further information on the Cairns South SDA, contact the SDA Division on 1800 001 048 or via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For further information on SDAs, refer to our general fact sheets and guidelines.