About The Area
Cairns is a modern tropical city uniquely positioned between two World Heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest. It is Tropical North Queensland’s major commercial, industrial, educational, retail and entertainment centre providing a diverse range of business services both locally and to the rapidly expanding Asia Pacific market.
Cairns residents enjoy an enviable lifestyle where it is possible to strike a balance between work and family with minimal travel times to work, a pristine natural environment and numerous leisure choices. Metropolitan shopping and restaurants plus world-class recreational facilities are drawcards as is the international airport with its direct connection throughout Australia and the world.
With a population of 165,000, growth is currently at 2.6 per cent in Cairns, the highest of the northern cities. Projections have estimated the population to grow to 222,640 by 2031. Before the Global Financial Crisis, Cairns city reached a growth rate of more than 4 per cent, one of the highest in its post-war history and was the fastest growing city in Australia with building approvals running at record rates of more than $1 billion a year.
This growth has pushed residential property prices to a median of $359,000, with growth now focused on the southern corridor of the city to meet the needs of families moving into the region. The largest growth suburbs are currently Redlynch to the west followed by Edmonton and Bentley Park to the south. The residential property market in the Cairns area has remained stable with the 2011 land valuations showing a 2 per cent increase. Investors interested in the rental market have favoured Cairns because of the high return for investment and this sector should continue to move forward with rental vacancies currently down to a low 2.9 per cent.
Cairns is one of the fastest growing regional economies outside Southeast Queensland with tourism worth $2.6 billion, primary industries $1.7 billion and mining, including the fly-in fly-out sector worth $1 billion. The economy slowed during the Global Financial Crisis when unemployment peaked to the highest in the country, but returned to 6.8 per cent, close to the State average, in December 2010, the lowest published level since December 2008.
The region does not appear to have a major oversupply of property so the predicted growth in jobs and population should translate into a need for new construction activity quite quickly. Initiatives are underway to stimulate the economy, including Cairns Regional Council waiving headworks charges to kick-start the construction industry. This has resulted in developers with an estimated $200 million worth of projects applying for the discounts.
Major projects underway or planned include the $25.8 million Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, a $5 million capital upgrade of Gordonvale’s Mulgrave Mill, the $50 million Mt Sheridan Plaza redevelopment, the ongoing $456 million Cairns Base Hospital redevelopment and the $45 million Cairns RSL high-rise development.
As the largest employer in Cairns, tourism is moving forward with flight capacity increasing and an increased emphasis on diversification within the industry. The Tropical North Queensland Events Strategy for example, is delivering events such as the Cairns Airport Challenge Cairns which alone will deliver more than 20,000 room nights to the Cairns region in its first year.
Education tourism is another growth sector which is worth more than $90 million and brings international students to the region’s English language schools, TAFE and university. James Cook University is one of the world’s leading universities and is undergoing major expansion in Cairns. Major projects include the just-completed $8.3 million Queensland Tropical Health Alliance building, work has begun on the $33 million School of Dentistry and the design process is well underway for the $25 million Cairns Institute research facility for the world’s tropical leaders.
Cairns International Airport is Australia’s leading regional airport only 7km from the city centre with direct flights to Australia’s major cities, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore via Darwin, New Zealand, Guam and Papua New Guinea with connections to Asia, Europe and America. Cairns is home to one of the most diverse aviation maintenance bases in Australia complemented by a state-of-art training centre and highly effective industry cluster, the Australasian Aviation Group – Cairns.
As the closest port to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is one of Australia’s busiest ports for cruising with around 140 cruise ship visits each year. The Cairns Marlin Marina provides 217 berths to commercial vessels serving the Great Barrier Reef tourist market, cruising yachts and super yachts. It is currently undergoing expansion to meet the growing demand from the international superyacht industry. New to the city is the $8.5 million Great Barrier Reef International Marine College, one of the best equipped marine training centres in the southern hemisphere.
Employment in regional mines and in fly-in mines outside the region has returned to pre-Global Financial Crisis levels, with money flowing in from China and India to finance new mining activity and Papua New Guinea powering ahead with the LNG and other mining projects.