Cairns Regional Council has undertaken the largest and most comprehensive survey of its kind – Our Cairns. The survey attracting a record-breaking 6786 respondents, telling us what’s important to them.
In addition, 1280 young people for the first time had their say on issues critical to them through the Youth Survey.
This survey had a clear aim – to identify the needs and desires of the community so that we can continue to guide the future of Cairns, with confidence that our vision aligns with residents’ values.
Questions delved into the social, liveability, economic and cultural perspectives of Cairns residents.
We were able to take the pulse on the community’s sentiment on liveability, facilities and services, traffic congestion, disaster resilience, the economy, the environment, higher density, arts and culture.
We can now also use the survey as a barometer on topical issues like the one-laning of CBD streets, whether Council should start suburban security patrols and if dogs should be allowed in the CBD, should cyclists be using inner city footpaths, is hosting a Schoolies Week appropriate and should drinking alcohol be permitted on the Esplanade and other foreshore areas.
Finally, we sought views on Council’s performance in providing the community with services and facilities.
For the purpose of this column, let’s take a closer look into the areas that impact the Cairns business community.
Tourism, Hospitality & Events
An oft-repeated catchcry is that there is a need for the Cairns economy needs to be further diversified beyond tourism.
Still, nearly a third of respondents felt that the tourism sector should be prioritised for stimulus and development. A further, 40% felt that Cairns needs new tourism assets in order for the region to grow.
There was resistance for a push to roll out the red carpet to schoolies for Schoolies Week, with 63% of residents opposed.
For those of you who own a café or restaurant – the community clearly appreciates you. Eating out was the highest ranked activity that respondents felt enhanced their lives, with 80% of respondents scoring “Eating at restaurants and cafes” very highly.
One of the most overwhelmingly supported questions in the survey related to the desire to see a signature destination event in the region.
A signature event should be symbolic of the region, and the average respondent agreed, with over 2000 respondents (or 43%) suggesting that “Reef and Rainforest” would be the ideal theme, which is the perfect segue to …
Significantly, 84% of respondents perceive that the health of the Great Barrier Reef is challenged, however 22% are optimistic that the damaged sections of the reef would recover in time, although 33% fear that the reef is in danger of dying.
So it’s no surprise that “Protecting the reef and rainforest” was ranked as the most important environmental issue, with 92% of respondents indicating this was important or very important.
Infrastructure, Water Security and Public Transport
The Hospital has been a hot topic of late and 59% of Cairns appears to agree that it should be – expanding our hospitals is the number one infrastructure priority according to respondents.
Coming a close second is infrastructure to provide water security, with roads coming in third place.
The vast majority of residents are not using public transport (82%), citing the flexibility of their own vehicle (in order to do other jobs such as pick up children etc.) or that it takes too much time. Nearly half of respondents would “absolutely” or “maybe” be inclined to catch buses if they were modern and electric-powered, and 46% of respondents felt that ensuring more sustainable transport options is “very important”, which will be music to the ears of the State Government which recently announced the trial of five new electric buses in the region. In addition, more than a third of respondents did feel that public transport should be considered priority infrastructure in order for Cairns to grow.
Industry and the Economy
Respondents felt that healthcare and social assistance was the number one industry we should be prioritising for stimulus. Perhaps no surprise given that this sector is the largest employer in the region.
Coming in at number two was the renewable energy sector – given the region’s abundance of both sunshine and rainfall, the community’s concern for the environment and known affordability issues, and the speed at which this sector is growing, this comes as no surprise.
Interestingly, as an environmental issue, 82% of the community told us that “supporting renewable energy” should be an important or very important priority.
Where to from here?
We will double down and forge ahead with our advocacy efforts, with the groundswell of the community firmly behind us. We can be confident that the Cairns community is largely aligned in what the priorities are, and importantly – the State and Federal Governments will find that hard to ignore.