Renee Cluff

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Rollout of Cairns Showgrounds masterplan dependent on Council lease renewal

The long-awaited masterplan for the Cairns Showgrounds has been revealed but the State Government is adamant it won’t be investing in its rollout.

Cairns MP Michael Healy said it will be up to the lessee to apply for grants to fund individual projects within the plan - altogether worth $35 million - over the next 30 years.

However, whether there will actually be a lessee is uncertain, with Cairns Regional Council still considering whether to renew as a trustee of the land when its lease expires in October.

“People were of the view we were going to pump hundreds of millions of dollars in but it’s just not economically viable,” Cairns MP Michael Healy told Tropic Now.

“The state owns the site but the Council has been the lead tenant on it.

“Will Council continue their management of that area? Because that’s the key thing.”

Mr Healy said under the masterplan, a small portion of the land currently accommodating a youth and recreation centre between Mulgrave Road and Quigley Streets will be sold and the profits will be granted to the lessee for management purposes.

“We expect three to four million dollars will go to the lessee so they can sign sub-leases, we’ve got the largest BMX Club in Australia plus other organisations that use that area,” he said.

“There are a number of clubs there and they need to pay a very reasonable rent.

“The plan needs to stand up by itself economically and it needs to be managed in an economical way.”

Cairns Regional Council's Division 5 Councillor, Richie Bates, told Tropic Now that despite the showgrounds being in his electorate, he's been left in the dark by Council staff.

"Not once have officers invited me or advised me of a masterplan lease meeting," he said.

"I've been excluded and when I've asked questions, I've received one sentence answers, a vanilla response."

"I'm frustrated by the whole thing and they just need to get on with it and sign it."

A spokesman for Cairns Regional Council told Tropic Now a decision will be made in the next few months.

"Council has just received the Cairns Showgrounds masterplan and will need to consider its contents," he said.

"Council’s lease over the Cairns Showground expires 10 October 2019 and a decision on the lease will go before Council prior to its expiry."

MP Michael Healy said while he understands the precinct has its financial challenges, it shouldn't be written off just yet.

“I don’t think it’s a white elephant but I think critical mass is the challenge there.

“The challenge is that it’s flat out once a year, we use it for concerts but I think there’s under-utilisation," he said.

“If the Council want to break a 100 year tradition, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

The Cairns Show Association told Tropic Now that pending formalisation of the lease in October, the masterplan guarantees it another 30 years on the precinct.

The Council lost a bid to move the Cairns Show to Cannon Park in 2017.

Association President Ian Allen is optimistic about the show’s future at the site it’s called home for more than 80 years.

“The Council’s been with the Showgrounds as a trustee for a long time and I’m very confident they will look at it and do the best for both parties and also the best thing for the people of Cairns,” he said.

“Until it’s all finalised, we can’t say much more.

“But the first thing we’d look at doing is to improve the historical grandstand there, the Dave Hedrick grandstand, to tidy it up.”


  • Under the planned sale of a small block of land bordering Mulgrave and Quigley Streets, the Cairns Youth Recreation Centre will be moved to the main precinct, where an indoor sports centre will also be built.
  • An ‘Eat Street’ precinct will be developed on the Mulgrave Road border near the Fred Moule Pavilion, where food trucks and pop-up marquees can be placed.
  • Terraced grass will replace small grandstands around the main showground arena.
  • An RV (events camping) site will remain next to the BMX track.
  • Barlow Park and West Barlow Park will be ‘retained and enhanced.’
  • Precinct-wide way-finding and branding signage to be erected.