Cape Torres and Gulf Economic Opportunities plan; Cape Torres and Gulf Economic Opportunities plan;

Cape York, Torres Strait and Gulf Economic Opportunities Plan, Northern Australia

The chance to transform the northernmost region of the Australian continent

The Cape York, Torres Strait and Gulf region in Far North Queensland, Australia, is vast - almost the size of England. It has a rich Indigenous culture and heritage, an outstanding natural environment and proximity to Asian markets. It has huge potential to become one of the country’s most recognisable, sustainable and economically diverse regions. But its remoteness and socio-economic challenges have held it back.

We looked at what economic opportunities there may be for the region that could create and drive growth. Commissioned by the Torres Cape Indigenous Council Alliance (TCICA) who represent the 14 local government areas in the region, we worked together to understand how we can make the most meaningful impact. 

We recommended a series of tangible projects, initiatives and ‘quick wins’. These ranged from developing an overarching tourism development strategy for the region, creating a program of carbon abatement and biodiversity offset projects, to creating a regional arts trail.

We took care to appropriately balance and scale the economic opportunities with social and environmental considerations. After all, the people, their culture, and the land and sea are at the heart of the region and critical to its success.


Project Summary

1/3 of the size of Queensland

28,000+ population

14local government areas in the region

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Bringing all along on the journey

Integral to the success of any Economic Plan is to hear from a range of voices. We met with, or spoke on the telephone where distances wouldn’t allow, to local Mayors, CEO’s, state government agencies and community members to uncover both the challenges and opportunities. What are their needs? What are they struggling with? How can we help them get greater access to meaningful employment, or education? What types of tourism opportunities might there be, that aren’t being capitalised on? And once identified, how might we help them attract investment? These discussions helped us identify five overarching Regional Development Objectives.

The Regional Development Objectives are underpinned by the region’s key strengths – its people, culture, and the environment.

I loved how we created ideas to impact change across a whole region. The challenges were so much more complex at this scale, but then the opportunities for meaningful change are that much greater. ” Michelle Cottrell Michelle Cottrell Project Manager

Key to recommending any new ideas was not to duplicate initiatives that already existed – and there were many. From solar and wind schemes to local produce markets and festivals, some communities were already sustainable and resilient. 

However, it was often piecemeal within individual communities, when if joined up with others nearby, it could catalyse growth for the wider region. Instead of arts festivals at different times with different programmes, imagine a region-wide arts festival where distances allowed visitors to travel from town to town. The ability to attract funding and ultimately tourism to the region becomes a much more likely proposition. Our work focused only on ideas where we could drive growth at a regional scale. 

Arup was the perfect partner to work with – we’re excited to have a bold, but practical and deliverable regional plan that will guide long-term growth in a way that recognises the need to protect our unique cultural and environmental assets. ” Melinda Eades Executive Officer, Torres Cape Indigenous Council Alliance Inc

Joined up thinking

The multidisciplinary nature of Arup means that we can tap into specialisms easily to gain a wider, more informed view. We brought specialists from energy, waste, maritime and highways amongst others, to the table. They shared best practice and exemplar global projects that would also work in this region given its constraints and opportunities. 

One example was energy transition. We recommended the creation of a Clean Energy Taskforce focused on driving a transition from diesel to renewable energy, using employment or community-owned microgrids. With 85% of the population not connected to the electricity grid, this could bring transformational change to the region.  

Another was to introduce carbon abatement and biodiversity offset projects. The Cape York area could capitalise on its large land mass by servicing companies who seek to offset their emissions and generate carbon credit through forestry projects. The projects generate carbon credits, which are traded for revenue. This would deliver co-benefits for the region, its environment and people.

This Economic Opportunities Plan reveals what possibilities there are for the region. If implemented, it will help boost the economy and guide private sector investment. Benefit will be felt not just by local or regional communities but across the nation - regions play an important role in the prosperity of Australia as a whole.


Award wins

  • Queensland Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) Awards for Planning Excellence – Best Planning Ideas (Large Project) 2020