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  • Renee Cluff

    Email Renee Cluff

    Lobbying begins for Pacific hub in Cairns

    The Federal Member for Leichhardt has pledged his support for the establishment of an Office of the Pacific in Cairns.

    The plan is aimed at taking advantage of the strategic importance of the Pacific region amid growing tensions between the United States and China.

    Warren Entsch has told Tropic Now the move is a natural fit.

    "We are the largest global regional city in Australia and we are directly connected to the Pacific," he said.

    "Already we are involved in so much work in the Pacific Islands and we have the largest resident population of resident Papua New Guineans in the country so it all fits perfectly.

    "It would allow us to further capitalise on our geographic position, to capitalise on our aviation hub and to capitalise on the broad array of ancillary industries we have outside of tourism.

    "Aircraft maintenance, shipping maintenance, the Convention Centre, education, health – all of these are world-class facilities and there’s absolutely no reason we couldn’t capitalise on them."

    Advocacy group Advance Cairns is seeking $1.5 million from the Federal Government to make the city the Pacific capital of Australia.

    Prompted by China's growing influence in the region, Cairns is already involved in several Pacific projects, including an agreement between the US and Australia to reinstate the Lombrum Naval base on Manus Island in PNG.

    “It’s timely to undertake this review in light of rapidly changing trade and geo-political environments on our doorstep in the Asia-Pacific,” CEO Nick Trompf said.

    Under its recommendations, the Office of the Pacific would drive the implementation of Australia’s Pacific Engagement Strategy which covers industries such as defence, education, construction, health and trade.

    It also wants the Federal Government to reassign the contract for the Australian Pacific Training Coalition from TAFE Queensland in Brisbane, to the TAFE Cairns office.

    Plus, it's calling on all three levels of Government and the Australian Olympic Committee to help secure Cairns as a host of the Pacific Games.

    Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch says while he's failed in efforts to secure the Games in the past, the timing is now right.

    "We've got the sporting infrastructure there now to be able to do it," he said.

    "Geographically there is none better, we are part of the Pacific."

    The entire initiative is among Advance Cairns' so-called '8+8' list of priorities for region, which features eight major infrastructure projects and eight key policy priority areas central to advocacy in the lead up to the 2020 Federal and State budgets and the Queensland election.

    $2.5 billion is sought from both levels of Government to fund the full list.

    They include:


    • $60m for 80 additional beds at Cairns Hospital
    • $21m to undertake a strategic assessment of service requirements and associated business case to upgrade Kuranda Range Rd
    • $130m for three tertiary education precincts
    • $26.7m a year in recurrent funding to enable students to complete a full university degree in medicine for the first time in Cairns
    • A broader dams and water security focus, adding three other bulk water storage projects as well as the top priority in Nullinga Dam
    • $62.6m for three arts, sport and culture projects
    • $1.5m to create a comprehensive strategy to accelerate population and migration into the region
    • Establishing an Office of the Pacific in Cairns as part of formal Pacific Engagement Strategy
    • The pursuit of a City Deal for Cairns


    • $90m for upgrading facilities towards creating Cairns University Hospital and increased recurrent funding to enable tertiary referral (or Level 6) status to be achieved • $365.5m duplicating and upgrade the Cairns Western Arterial road
    • $854m from government towards the cost of a stand-alone Nullinga Dam 
    • $545m in investment for marine maintenance facilities and expanding Queensland’s sole operational navy base, HMAS Cairns
    • $136m to complete the sealing of the Gulf Savannah Way to the Queensland border
    • $100m to secure four airline attraction support packages
    • $1.5m to develop a framework for more affordable and reliable energy as well transitioning increasingly to renewables