After a quiet 150 year history, Mackay is doing some rapid growing, with event facilities and attractions to match.
BY EDWINA STORIE
Back in 1860, a crew of eight men traversed northern Queensland’s tropical pastures on a journey only previously taken by Captain James Cook and a handful of maritime explorers a hundred years beforehand. After descending into Pioneer Valley and exploring the mouth of the Mackay River, the few men remaining, including John Mackay, claimed and named the region’s virgin pastures. What they were claiming would be a land rich in natural resources, and in the future would be the source of some of the strongest mining and sugar economies in the country.
Another 150 years on, Mackay is coming into its own. The little town that could is rapidly growing and coming up against the state’s more well-known destinations. And with such abundant natural resources, industries to match, and investment in the community, it is set to give the big cities a run for their money in the near future.
Mackay Convention Bureau’s recently departed business events manager, Carrie Olson, said the region is a great destination for clients who have seen Queensland’s hotspots and are searching for something new and exciting.
“With the current resources boom Mackay is rapidly growing and changing, so even if people visited two years ago, they will be amazed and surprised at what they find here now,” she said.
Mackay airport is one of the fastest growing in Australia so accessibility to the area is continually improving, especially now Virgin Australia, QantasLink and Jetstar have regular flights there.
“We have recently had brand new Qantas and Virgin Australia lounges open which is great for business travellers, and this is the first regional Virgin Australia lounge in the country,”
Ms Olsen continued.
And there is a lot to bring business travellers to the region. Mackay is brimming with natural resources which have become a strong element of its attraction for business industries. Southwest of Mackay in the Isaac Region is Australia’s largest coal seam, the Bowen Basin. Mine tours give a unique insight into the mining and resources sector, while Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point coal terminals have public viewing platforms.
Onto other natural resources, the region boasts Australia’s longest stretch of subtropical rainforest where visitors can see platypus in the wild at Eungella National Park, and wallabies roaming the beach.
Touring more of the region’s strong industries is possible with groups seeing a working sugar farm from atop a tractor-drawn wagon, while night tours also go through the working sugar mill.
With much investment into the region in recent years, Mackay has the advantage of up-to-date and new facilities. One of these is the award-winning Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre which opened in 2009, making it one of the newest and most modern centres in Queensland.
“The world-class facilities and our small-town hospitality is something we pride ourselves on,” Ms Olson says.
Adding to Mackay’s up-and-coming MICE capabilities is GoWake Cable Park which will be the newest of only five wakeboarding cable parks in the country. With construction starting earlier this year, the project is well on the way to becoming a landmark attraction for Mackay. New retail, accommodation, restaurants and cafés will surround the park with the manmade lakes being the centrepiece of the master planned community. Matching Mackay’s growing status, cable wakeboarding is an up-and-coming sport that is on the shortlist for the 2020 Olympic Games. GoWake Cable Park, however, will make the sport easily accessible, affordable, easy and fun.
With this and more initiatives to come, Mackay is a region set to flourish, making it a wonderful region for business events.