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Strengthening Far North Queensland

This vast tropical region covers 272,215 square kilometres over 21 local government areas, from Cassowary Coast in the south to the Torres Strait Islands in the north. It includes the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage listed areas.

Far North Queensland is home to 298,829 residents (ABS 2023 ERP), expected to increase to 378,000 residents by 2041. This multicultural region includes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of 43,201 approximately 15% of total population. 21.4% of people were born overseas and 72 languages are spoken in Cairns. (ABS Census of Population 2021)

As Queensland’s gateway to Asia-Pacific, the region is well-connected to domestic and international markets, with direct international air and sea access through the Cairns International Airport and Ports North. The newly developed Regional Trade Distribution Centre at the Cairns Airport brings increased airfreight export solutions to the region.

The Far North Queensland regional office is one of 11 regional offices across Queensland helping businesses to mature, grow and invest.

Industry strengths

Far North Queensland has an economically diverse and resilient economy, with a strong culture of innovation. The Gross Regional Product is $24,156 million (ABS June 2023).


  • Largest contributing industry by output – 13.4% of total output (ABS 2020/21)
  • See major projects section below.

Health care and social assistance

  • Foremost contributor to employment, employing over 21,000 people (ABS 2021)
  • Facilities include a large public hospital, six smaller regional public hospitals, 18 regional health centres, a smaller private hospital, strong allied health services and a large pharmaceutical holistic health sector.
  • Dugurrdja Health Precinct will provide an innovative and transformational approach to sustainable healthcare with global reach.


  • Food manufacturing largest employer in the sector with the largest output
  • Followed by transport equipment and parts, metal products, technical equipment, chemical and wood manufacturing.


  • Strong mineral wealth and natural resources including bauxite processed into aluminium
  • An abundance of critical minerals including copper, nickel, tungsten, graphite, vanadium, silver, gold, silica and rare earths.
  • The major miners include Rio Tinto, Glencore and Metro Mining.

Education and training

  • Two universities – James Cook University and Central Queensland University
  • Great Barrier Reef International Marine College
  • Cairns Aviation Skills Centre
  • Queensland TAFE campus
  • The region is a popular destination for international students.

Defence, maritime and aviation

  • HMAS Cairns is the home port for six Naval vessels, supported by Navy and civilian personnel.
  • Home to the Regional Maintenance Centre – North East for sustainment of Defence vessels.
  • Three major slipways provide maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services to Defence, Australian Border Force, commercial and private vessels.
  • Cairns Marine Precinct Common User Facility being developed by the Queensland Government, in partnership with the Australian Government.
  • The General Aviation precinct at the Cairns Airport is home to aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services providers with specialist capabilities.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing

  • There is abundant fertile agricultural land and rainfall
  • The region has a diverse horticulture sector
  • There is a controlled timber plantation industry and investment
  • Being beside the Great Barrier Reef, there is controlled fishing and land aquaculture.

Tourism, arts and culture

  • Three million tourists visit each year
  • It is a premier superyacht and cruise ship destination
  • Popular conference and business event locations include an upgraded Cairns Convention Centre.
  • There is a vibrant arts and culture industry, including rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage.

Major projects

A strong capital program of private, government, mining and renewable energy projects will be delivered in the Far North Queensland region, find out more about Far North Queensland Major Projects Pipeline.

State Development Area

The Cairns South State Development Area (SDA) was established to 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 1159-hectare Cairns South SDA provides land for regionally significant industrial development.

Local content activities

Support is facilitated via one-on-one interactions, information, presentations and workshops (both online and face-to-face).

A number of pre-recorded sessions are also available on how to promote your businesses’ products and services to others.

Far North Queensland Industry Breakfast February 2024

The FNQ Industry Breakfast provides information on current and upcoming projects and related supply chain opportunities in the region.

Presentations from event

Further information

Find out more about this diverse region or contact our Far North Queensland regional offices.

Last updated: 07 Jun 2024