Is Cairns (not Townsville) now going to be the second capital?

Cairns’s economy is in trouble, with tourism way down and unemployment at 11-12%.  It’s understandable therefore the Government would consider a range of ideas to boost its economy.  The Government’s latest idea, as reported in the Cairns Post, is to prop up the local economy by transferring a bunch of public service jobs to Cairns:

A high-level push to lure thousands of State Government bureaucrats to Cairns is gathering steam in an unprecedented bid to ease the boom and bust cycle plaguing the Far Northern economy.

Large sections of two departments are being mooted as possible transfer targets, with Premier Anna Bligh setting up a special committee to look at the logistics of such a move. More details are tipped to be unveiled when the Premier visits Cairns during the temporary move of her office to Townsville for a week in October.

It comes as a new CommSec research report singled out Cairns as being on such shaky economic ground that government intervention was needed to stave off the continuing tourism downturn.

Moving thousands of public servants to Cairns is unlikely to be a good idea.  With the projected impacts of climate change, life in our tropical cities will become less pleasant. Also as a community we may be better off accepting that tourism may have encouraged Cairns to grow too large, and migration out of Cairns to other regions in Queensland (such as Gladstone or the booming Surat Basin communities) may be appropriate.  After all, Cairns population (164,000) is 2.5-3 times what it was in the mid 1980s (around 60,000).  The Government will need to think carefully about trying to artificially prop up Cairns’s economy with an injection of public servants.

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2 Responses to Is Cairns (not Townsville) now going to be the second capital?

  1. KS says:

    Absolutely agree that moving public servants to Cairns as an economic policy is unlikely to be a good idea. However unemployment in the Far North has been biased to male unemployment which is more related to property and building than tourism. Pre-GFC cairns had one of the highest regional population growth rates. That growth was not driven by any tourism boom.

    Tourism maybe weak but Cairns is well positioned in several areas related to current global trends and is going through a period of structural adjustment after the collapse of the building boom. The public service idea should be resisted unless there is a good reason for them to be based in Cairns for efficient service delivery which is doubtful.

    Cairns already has a relatively high proportion of public servants compared to most regions in Qld based on last census data I believe? The Far North regional economy may be more diversified than the common perception.

  2. Gene Tunny says:

    Thanks KS. You’re right Cairns already has a higher proportion of public servants than the rest of Queensland. I’ll have a closer look at the pre-GFC drivers of Cairns’s growth. On my recent trips to Cairns I’ve heard that a lot of people move to Cairns for lifestyle reasons/a fresh start to life (e.g. recent divorcees). It may be possible to see this in current population data, but we may have to wait until the 2011 census results to know for sure.

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