Gavin King

TropicNow editor

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Subtle shift towards economic diversity to kick-start Cairns economy for 2017

Recent news in tertiary education, the marine sector and food manufacturing suggest Cairns is broadening its base to complement our booming tourism industry.


The Cairns economy is making positive and long overdue strides along a diversification path that will support jobs outside the tourism industry.

While tourism continues to soar and attract new investment, the first month of 2017 has seen advances in tertiary education, the maritime sector and food production in a subtle shift to a broader economic base.

The combination of these new developments and the continued strength of tourism is helping to create jobs, with the latest Cairns Watch report by Herron Todd White noting an increase of 6,100 persons in employment in the Tropical North since December 2015.


In the university sector, CQUniversity continues to expand its operations in the Tropical North, with Cairns chosen along with Noosa as key hubs for delivery of a new midwifery degree.

CQUni Cairns will be a residential school delivery site for the new Bachelor of Midwifery (Graduate Entry), with hopes it will help address the nation’s chronic shortage of midwives.

Midwifery Discipline Leader Tanya Capper said Australian hospitals and professional peak bodies were “crying out” for fresh talent.

“Our residential schools in Cairns and Noosa are vital to our new midwifery students coming through to help fill future vacancies,” Ms Capper says.

“The new degree is fully accredited and registered by the relevant bodies. CQUniversity is at the forefront of addressing this crucial provision of qualified midwives by providing residential schools at both ends of the State.”

The university has also introduced a new Bachelor of Creative Arts course this year, the first of its kind in Cairns.

In the maritime sector, Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch has announced Cairns will be a major maintenance hub for Navy patrol boats.

The $55 million a year contract will be carried out over the next few years as the Navy’s Armidale Class patrol boats are gradually retired from service.

"It's very exciting news that not only do we have the commitment for the long-term servicing of the Pacific Patrol Boats in Cairns but also the ongoing sustainment of the Armidales, now that the contract has been awarded to Thales Australia," he said.

"This is a reflection of the outstanding ability and capacity of our industry and the skill-sets of our trades to be able to deliver on these contracts.

"This is great news for Cairns, and again confirms that we are absolutely committed to the city becoming a Northern Australian maritime maintenance hub.

In food production, local manufacturer Fang’s Chilli Sauce is going gangbusters after its official launch just over a month ago.

The chilli sauce has already secured nearly 50 stockists, and the product is already garnering international interest.

State Treasurer Curtis Pitt visited the Fangs Chilli Sauce at Portsmith last week.

“Having tried Fangs Chilli Sauce and being a fan of spicy food, I can definitely say this is tastier than any chilli sauce in your cupboard at home right now,” Mr Pitt said.

“This company is a great example of the potential for Queensland’s manufacturing sector in every corner of our state.

“They’ve done considerable research into global demand for chilli sauce and responded with a fine-tuned recipe that is healthy and has bite, but with a heat intensity that dissipates quickly to enhance rather than overwhelm the other flavours in a meal.”

Advance Cairns has identified economic diversification opportunities in agriculture, biotech and bio-fertiliser, health, education, and tropical health and medicine.