RIPE FOR PICKING
Economist shares wisdom on advancing Far North region
LEADING Australian economist Craig James is urging Cairns business groups to lobby hard for infrastructure investment for the region in the countdown to this month’s State Election.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s chief economist was in town for a special event with the financial institution’s Cairns employees and clients this week imparting insights into the Far North’s economy.
Mr James said the opportunities in Cairns for food export and tourism should only continue to grow, as long as state and federal investment keeps up.
“Clearly the questions have got to be put to the major party’s state candidates on what they plan to do over the next couple of years,” he said.
“If projects come to Cairns they can provide a good supply of work and build up Cairns’ reputation as an export hub.
“We have seen other cities around Australia, places like Bendigo, Ballarat, Gladstone, and now Cairns, recognising that food export to Asia is something we need to focus on.“There is a need to invest in things like aeroplanes, and the like, to get airfreight going from the region.
“The Asian consumer is after high-quality products, they’re not just wanting sugar and bananas.
“Income levels are rising and that’s creating demand for high-quality produce.
“You need to continue to see local, state and federal governments talking to the overseas airlines. You can’t rely on other people to do it for you.
“Businesses and the local government need to continue to advocate for Cairns products over and above others.”
Mr James said, with hard work, business leaders could develop a Far North brand which would remain attractive overseas for many years to come.
The region’s static housing market also come under review with a suggestion it could be the country’s next investment hotspot.
“Cairns is certainly not seeing the same growth as Sydney and Melbourne,” Mr James said. “But investors can see those markets are peaking and are thinking about where else they can put some money.
“Brisbane is certainly a candidate for that kind of growth and other regional areas.”
Mr James said a tight rental market would also eventually force prices upward.
“What that suggests is the rate of return on properties is rising and you are going to potentially see more developers and investors and speculators see there is an opportunity to build more,” he said.
“Down south, once they realise there are bigger rental returns, they’ll come up.”
But Mr James said it was difficult to put a time frame on any market rebound.
IF PROJECTS COME TO CAIRNS THEY CAN PROVIDE A GOOD SUPPLY OF WORK AND BUILD UP CAIRNS’ REPUTATION AS AN EXPORT HUB THERE IS A NEED TO INVEST IN THINGS LIKE AEROPLANES, AND THE LIKE, TO GET AIRFREIGHT GOING FROM THE REGION. THE ASIAN CONSUMER IS AFTER HIGH-QUALITY PRODUCTS ... NOT JUST SUGAR AND BANANAS ... INCOME LEVELS ARE RISING. YOU NEED TO CONTINUE TO SEE ALL GOVERNMENTS TALKING TO THE OVERSEAS AIRLINES CRAIG JAMES, CHIEF ECONOMIST COMMONWEALTH BANK
OPPORTUNITY: Leading economist Craig James (right) has advised more outbound freight services would help Cairns prosper.