While the shire’s economy relies heavily on agricultural production, opportunities for diversification are being pursued as the natural assets and rich heritage of the area have given rise to a fledgling tourism industry. Establishing enabling infrastructure to develop Mareeba as an industrial hub and promoting the shire as a desirable lifestyle destination continue to be viable options for present and future economic growth and diversification.
The agricultural, forestry and fishing industry employs the highest proportion of the shire’s workforce than any other industry (14.6%) so it is not surprising that the most common occupations are managers (16.7%) and labourers (15.0%) (ABS 2011 Census). As in the wider Tablelands region, most businesses are small businesses employing less than 20 people.
The shire’s workforce is becoming increasingly skilled with a significant increase in the number of people, especially women, gaining a post-school qualification over the 10 year period from 2001 to 2011. Females gaining a post-school qualification doubled or increased by 102% from 2001 to 2011 with a corresponding 40% increase for males (ABS 2011 Census).
In Dec 2012 there were 10,405 people participating in the workforce in the shire but the unemployment rate was 12.5% which is more than double that for Queensland at 5.8% (DEEWR: 2012).
The shire’s agriculture reflects the diversity that characterises the wider Tablelands region and includes a large range of plant and animal industries and production of both tropical and subtropical crops. Four Tablelands industry groups are represented and the gross value of production for 2010/11 is: tree crops ($220M); field crops ($90M); animal industries ($79M); and lifestyle horticulture ($15M). Geoff Dickinson, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing maintains that “the success and resilience of the Tablelands agriculture sector can be attributed to this industry diversity, which provides options to farmers to change crops and farming systems to adapt to market cycles and consumer demand” (Dickinson, G: 2012).
The shire’s farmers and support services represent, in most cases, best international practice in farming in a tropical environment. Water supplied from Tinaroo Dam enables a tremendous range of fruit and vegetables to be grown to supply both the domestic and overseas markets. The range of crops grown includes avocados, bananas, cashews, citrus, coffee, cow pea, custard apples, dolichos, flowers, fresh herbs, grapes, grass seed, legume seed, lettuce, longans, lychees, mangoes, mixed vegetables, navy beans, potatoes, passionfruit, paw paw, peaches, pineapples, pumpkins, sorghum, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, native trees, turf and watermelons. The banana industry is the most valuable agricultural industry realising a gross value of production of $95.2M in 2010/11 for the Tablelands region, with most production occurring in the Mareeba Shire. The cattle industry also plays a significant role in the shire’s economy contributing $30M to the total $404M gross value of production realised by agricultural industries in the Tablelands economy in 2010/11(Dickinson, G: 2012).
The Tablelands region is rich in mineral resources including gold, lead, zinc and other base metals, tungsten, copper sulphate, tin, perlite, limestone, marble and slate, and there are a number of major mining operations within the shire. The recent global downturn in the resource industries has also been felt within the shire with the closure of Kagarra mining at Chillagoe, however, other small to medium sized ventures are continuing to operate employing locals and purchasing local goods and services
Resources for Business
These web sites provide up-to-date references and information for businesses and industry.
- www.business.gov.au – Government resource for the Australian business community.
- www.ipaustralia.gov.au – Intellectual property, patents and trademarks.
- www.ato.gov.au – Australian Taxation Office.
- www.employment.gov.au – Department of Employment.
- www.apprenticeshipscentre.com.au – Australia Apprenticeship Services.
- www.business.qld.gov.au – Government resource for the Queensland business community.
- www.fairtrading.qld.gov.au – Office of Fair Trading.
- www.deta.qld.gov.au – Department of Education, Training and Employment.
- www.tablelandsfutures.com – Economic development on the Atherton Tablelands.
- www.advancecairns.com – Economic development in Tropical North Queensland.
- www.athertontablelands.com.au – Tropical Tablelands Tourism.
- www.australiantropicalfoods.com – Australian Tropical Foods.