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    What would you do if you were Mayor of Cairns for a day?

    When Cairns Regional Council asked an open question in its Our Cairns community survey, they were surprised by the over-whelming and intriguing results.

    If you were Mayor of Cairns for a day, what would you do?

    That was the enticing, open-ended question governments at all levels rarely ask.

    Little wonder there was an overwhelming and incredibly insightful response from residents when Cairns Regional Council recently posed that scenario as part of its Our Cairns community survey.

    Our Cairns aimed to give locals a say in the future of their city. Attracting more than 6400 responses, the survey is considered one of the most successful consultation processes in Cairns local government history.

    Some two months on, the veritable mountain of results has been tallied and dissected, and we now have the opportunity to delve deeper into the findings.

    One component of the survey was called “If I was Mayor for a Day”, inviting respondents to outline exactly what they would do if they held the reins of council for a 24-hour period.

    Some of the results have surprised council, while other aspects have reaffirmed some of its existing priorities.

    “Jobs and the economy” received the highest number of mentions in response to the question.

    With 470 mentions, it outranked “community engagement” with 373 mentions, “Litter/look of city” with 310 mentions, “traffic” with 294 mentions and issues around “homelessness and itinerants” rounding out the top 5 with 272 mentions.

    The responses were overwhelmingly constructive and thoughtful.

    When it came to the mentions of jobs and the economy, people focused on economic diversity, marketing the city as a great place to do business, and incentives for new and existing companies.

    One respondent wrote: “Immediately start a campaign to sell Cairns as a location for Australian businesses to relocate IT, accounts, HR departments, etc. We need to build diversity within our economy, we need companies to relocate departments to Cairns (departments that do not require a shopfront).

    “This is a long-term project, but must be tackled today, tomorrow and every day. Incentivise companies to come here. Offer reductions in rates, etc, to show them the benefits to their employees in being located in Cairns.”

    Another wanted more focus on non-tourism business opportunities.

    “Create a futurist based plan that focuses on Cairns becoming a region not solely reliant on tourism to ensure we get bigger employers to the region and develop talent locally to create a self-sustaining economy where people can stay local and still be part of the world stage.”

    Our city’s drastic youth unemployment situation sparked one respondent to say: “As Mayor for the day I would develop a youth unemployment strategy that commits to employing up to 15 young unemployed people, supporting them with wrap around services and giving them a pathway to a long-term job opportunity”.

    The topic of community engagement provided a surprisingly high level of feedback. People want their Mayor and councillors to be more visible and more open to ideas from “ordinary ratepayers”.

    “I’d actually listen to the ordinary people, the ratepayers, not the business people, and ask the hard questions about what they think and then take on board what they say, even if I didn’t like it.”

    Cleaning up the city’s image, from streets to sidewalks, provided another eye-opening volume of feedback. Forcing building owners to clean up their facades and front verges was also a common thread in the responses on this topic.

    “Clean it up especially the roadsides coming into Cairns, and all areas not just those that are considered affluent. Present a good first impression for newcomers and tourists so they want to stay and come back.”

    While jobs and the economy received the single biggest number of mentions, the combined total of mentions for roads, traffic and transport delivered the largest overall response.

    Synching traffic lights to provide better traffic flow, upgrading roads from the Northern Beaches into the city and fixing public transport – including to and from the Airport – were all major concerns raised by the hypothetical Mayors for a day.

    The council’s light rail proposal also rated highly, and feeds into the desire for solutions to congestion and parking in the CBD.

    “Nothing can be done in a day, but I’d make a commitment to light rail and be strong about it, stake a reputation on it.”

    Other topics to make the long list of mentions included flying foxes, preserving older buildings, rectangular stadium, crocodile management and cycling infrastructure.


    1. “Start creating a creative and environmental zone in Bungalow and Portsmith. It’s a great area that could be invigorated for activity, culture as well as business.”

    2. “Hovercraft from Convention Centre to Palm Cove calling in to all Northern Beaches boat ramps for transport to CBD for workers and tourists. Sydney has its ferries, Brisbane has its Big Cats and Cairns could be famous for its Hovercrafts.”

    3. “I would run a jazz festival in Shields St.”

    4. “Focus on making Cairns a smart city and the digital and innovation hub for the Asia Pacific region.”

    5. “A waterpark out at Smithfield, especially for the older kids, as Sugarworld is for the younger kids now so the teens need a water space to be able to enjoy too.”

    6. “I would stop the development of multi storey block units which do not match our tropical climate.”

    7. “I would organise the planting of thousands of tropical trees, including large green shade which would resemble Singapore and truly cement Cairns as a tropical destination for tourists.”