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Our Cairns 2030 wishlist: part 3

In part 3 of our Cairns 2030 wishlist series, we round-up the final items we'd love to see happen over the next decade or so.


Like most of our readers, we're an aspirational bunch here at TropicNow.

So we sat down with our team of writers, designers, and sales crew and gathered up their ideas to add to the thoughts of local leaders.

And the result is our ambitious but realistic Cairns 2030 wishlist.

All of the items are within reach, so long as the community and our leaders pull together with the common goal of achieving a vibrant, successful, economically robust region.



01. CONVENTION CENTRE IS EXTENDED
Our city’s reputation for being a world-class conference destination continues to grow with each passing year. But there’s one thing at the Cairns Convention Centre holding us back: we don’t have enough exhibition space. By 2030, we’d like to see an extra 3000-4000 sq/m of floor space to accommodate larger conferences. We did it on a temporary basis for the hugely successful ATE tourism expo in 2014. Now we need to start building a permanent addition.

02. ANOTHER NATIONAL SPORTING TEAM
The popularity of NRL and AFL games and support for the Cairns Taipans proves our city will get behind a national sporting team. As our population grows there’ll be an even larger local fan base to support a winning team. Yes, we need more infrastructure (note the rectangular stadium on this very list), but by 2030 we will be ready for a second sporting team to join the Taipans. Our very own A-League team perhaps?

03. THRIVING SMALL BAR SCENE AND LANEWAY CULTURE
Australia’s small bar revolution started in Melbourne, then Sydney followed and now Brisbane is fast catching up. We hope Cairns is next. There are initial sparks of life in our CBD already with The Conservatory Bar, McGinty’s Irish Bar, Bernie’s Jazz and Piano Bar and 12 Bar Blues, while Caffiend changed the way we view laneways in our city centre with its inspired space off Grafton St. By 2030 we hope small bars, live music and active laneways are the norm, rather the exception.

04. MAJOR ROADS UPGRADE
Just as we need better cycleways and walking infrastructure, a growing city also needs adequate road
infrastructure. Major transport arteries such as the Kuranda Range Road, Western Arterial Road and the Bruce Highway from Edmonton to Gordonvale are already under pressure. Imagine what another 30,000 people and almost as many cars will do for peak hour traffic in Cairns over the next 15 years. These three major roads in particular need swift action before we reach crunch point in 2030.

05. A THIRD UNIVERSITY
Education is predicted to be one of Australia’s fastest growing industries over the next 15 years, and Cairns is ideally positioned to capitalise, particularly in the lucrative international student market. CQUniversity and James Cook University are constantly growing and providing world-class education experiences for locals and visiting students alike. Could a third university player enter the education landscape by 2030 – perhaps in the booming southern corridor of Cairns? We certainly like to think so.

06. PLANNING STARTED FOR CAIRNS AIRPORT’S SECOND RUNWAY

Our international airport was a visionary move more than 30 years ago, and it’s been a major catalyst for economic growth in our region. With passenger movements reaching record levels over the past 12 months, growth is expected to continue at sky-high rates. While a second runway isn’t expected to be required for decades, the planning and community support for it should be well-entrenched by 2030. 

07. SUSTAINABLE TOURISM SECTOR IN CAPE YORK

Economic development in Cape York and the need to create jobs in remote Indigenous communities has been a vexing issue for decades. Government policies may come and go, but one factor that has remained constant is the universal interest in authentic Indigenous experiences and culture. By 2030, better roads and airstrips, safer communities, business support and dedicated government funding and strategies are just some tangible ways to foster Indigenous tourism experiences in the Cape. 

08. GREAT BARRIER REEF IS ALIVE AND WELL

Rumours of the Great Barrier Reef’s demise have been exaggerated in recent times and some of the commentary has unfairly damaged our tourism industry. Nevertheless, the concerns by scientists are real and we must take the threat of everything from climate change and crown-of-thorns starfish to illegal fishing and water quality seriously. We imagine a bright and balanced future for the Reef where tourism activity and sustainable fishing sits comfortably alongside protective measures and global action on anthropogenic climate change. 

09. MORE RESIDENTIAL LIVING IN THE CAIRNS CBD

The biggest hurdle to creating consistent buzz and atmosphere – not to mention economic activity - in the Cairns CBD is the lack of people living there. Empty nesters, downsizers and millennials will increasingly look to live in our city centre over the next 15 years. By 2030, we hope a development like the Nova towers by Aspial has proven to be the game-changer our CBD has long needed.

10. SECOND HOSPITAL AND HEALTH PRECINCT

The long talked about, never acted on debate about the need for a second, smaller hospital in the southern corridor of Cairns will need to be resolved in coming years. Cairns Hospital is under sustained pressure to cope with current demand and sooner or later authorities need to bite the bullet and start building a second facility. Recently renewed talk of a site near Edmonton is positive. So long as we’re not still talking about it in 2030.

11. PROSPEROUS TOWNS ACROSS THE REGION

We want to see our smaller towns as prosperous, thriving villages. By 2030, we hope townships to the south, west and north are all reaping the flow-on benefits from the booming central hub of Cairns. Cottage industries in tourism, manufacturing, innovation, agriculture and hand-crafted goods need to be fostered and supported by councils and governments to ensure our outlying areas survive and thrive.

12. INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED ANNUAL FESTIVAL

The reef and rainforest will always be our global selling points but we’d love to see a homegrown festival reach global renown as well, whether it’s in film (Cairns Film Festival anyone?), food, art or music. Hobart has its famed MONA MOFO Festival, while the NSW and Queensland hinterlands host massive music events like Splendour in the Grass and Woodford Folk Festival. By 2030, perhaps the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair or The Grass Is Greener music fest could be our ticket to reaching a national and global audience.

13. WANGETTI TRAIL IS BUILT

The tropical north has a growing reputation as a premium mountain bike destination, with events like the UCI World Cup putting us on the global map. The grand vision of building a track from Cairns to Port Douglas would see that reputation soar even higher. The Wangetti Trail is the brainchild of mountain biking legend Glen Jacobs, and it’s the type of game-changing infrastructure that would deliver decades of health and economic benefits.

14. AQUIS HAS OPENED ITS DOORS

We hope we’re not being too optimistic to think the Aquis development will be built and operating by 2030. Aquis has been a rollercoaster ride since it was first announced in late 2012. But a recent new direction setting aside the casino aspect to focus on hotel and residential components may signal a more realistic approach to what was initially an $8 billion concept. We hope some of the 10,000 operational jobs originally promised become reality by 2030.

15. RECTANGULAR STADIUM

It seems obvious that Cairns needs a rectangular stadium to match both our love of sport and our growing population. While Townsville has done well to secure multitudes of funding for its CBD stadium, Cairns can’t give up on the dream of improving our stadium infrastructure. We’re pleased to see Cairns Regional Council recently commit $200,000 in funding for a scoping study to determine the way forward. We hope to be sitting in the grandstand watching our very own national sporting team in 2030.

16. WATERFRONT SEAFOOD MARKET

Some of the world’s best seafood is caught in the waters surrounding the tropical north and our region has a rich history in the fishing industry. We love to imagine a bustling weekend seafood market full of fresh local produce, small oyster bars and outdoor dining options. While Rusty’s Markets caters for land-based agriculture, we think our growing population and booming tourism sector will one day make a seafood market viable. A section of the Cruise Liner Terminal could be the ideal location.

17. PASSENGERS ALL ABOARD THE CAIRNS LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM

The vision of a light rail system zipping around Cairns was a key promise of Mayor Bob Manning in this year’s council election. Dubbed “The Green Train”, Cr Manning said it could potentially take passengers from Mt Peter in the south to Clifton Beach in the north. Significant funding from all levels of government is required, but our public transport system needs it. The Green Train would solve a range of transport issues facing our city into the future.

18. ACCESS TO EXPORT MARKETS FOR OUR AGRICULTURAL SECTOR

As Tropic Magazine columnist Shaun Donaldson explains on pages 22-23 of this edition, the Tropical North has the potential to be Asia’s delicatessen, rather than the much-talked about food bowl. The clean, green credentials of our local produce holds massive potential for growth as Asia’s middle classes seek out high quality food. But getting our produce to those potential customers is still a major hurdle. We’d like to see facility upgrades at Cairns Airport to allow our region to capitalise by 2030.

19. CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR PERFORMING ARTS

The Tropical North is home to some incredible talent in drama, theatre production, film-making, dance and music. We think there’s huge potential to grow this creative sector of our community with a dedicated performing arts school, either utilising TAFE resources or university curriculums, while also incorporating primary and high school students. Fostering indigenous talent should also be an important component of the centre. A site such as the Centre of Contemporary Arts building on Abbott St might be the ideal location.

20. FOCUS ON TROPICAL ARCHITECTURE

We don’t live in a cold climate, yet so much of our residential architecture and building design is better suited to Canberra than Cairns. Local award-winning architects like Jesse Bennett are leading the way with a melding of traditional tropical style with modern touches that bring the outside in while embracing the environmental context in which the buildings are situated. By 2030, we’d love to see more homes and buildings reflect our heritage – and our future – as the globe tilts towards the tropics.