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About my region – Mackay Queensland

​​​​​​About my region is a series of individual profiles of the agricultural, forestry and fisheries industries in your region. This regional profile presents an overview of the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors in the Mackay region and the recent Queensland financial performance of the broadacre, beef, grains, dairy and vegetable industries.

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​​​Regional overview

The Mackay region of Queensland is located in the east of the state and includes the Whitsunday Islands. The region comprises the three local government areas of Isaac, Mackay, and Whitsunday, and the major regional centre of Mackay. The region covers a total area of around 90,125 square kilometres, or 5.21 per cent of Queensland's total area, and is home to approximately 173,900 people (ABS 2017).

Agricultural land in the Mackay region occupies 79,861 square kilometres, or 89 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 8,070 square kilometres, or 9 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 42,464 square kilometres or 47 per cent of the Mackay region.

Broad land use in the Mackay region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Mackay region. It includes a legend which shows the broad land use categories— nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use; grazing native vegetation; production forestry; grazing modified pastures; plantation forestry; cropping; horticulture; intensive uses and water. This map is discussed in the above paragraph.
Source: Catchment scale land use of Australia ABARES 2017


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the May 2018 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 98,500 people were employed in the Mackay region. The region accounts for 4 per cent of total employment in Queensland and 9 per cent of all people employed in the Queensland agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Mining was the largest employment sector with 15,600 people, followed by retail trade with 10,900 people, and health care and social assistance with 8,700 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were construction; accommodation and food services; and manufacturing. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 5,800 people, representing 6 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Mackay region, May 2018
Shows the number of people employed in the Mackay region by industry in thousands. The figure is discussed in the previous two paragraphs.
Note: Annual average of the preceding 4 quarters.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, cat. no. 6291.0, Labour Force, Australia 2018

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2016–17, the gross value of agricultural production in the Mackay region was $1.4 billion, which was 10 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Queensland ($14 billion).

The Mackay region has a diverse agricultural sector. The most important commodities in the Mackay region based on the gross value of agricultural production were cattle and calves ($613 million), followed by sugarcane ($461 million) and tomatoes ($109 million). These commodities together contributed 85 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region. In 2016–17 the Mackay region accounted for 71 per cent ($126,000) of the state's rice production.

Value of agricultural production, Mackay region, 2016–17
Shows the gross value of agricultural production in the region in millions of dollars. The figure is discussed in the previous three paragraphs.
Note: The graph shows only data published by the ABS. Some values were not published by the ABS to ensure confidentiality.
The "Other commodities" category includes the total value of commodities not published as well as those with small values.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, cat. no. 7503.0, Value of agricultural commodities produced, Australia 2018

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2015–16 there were 1,647 farms in the Mackay region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The region contains 9 per cent of all farm businesses in Queensland.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Mackay region, 2015–16
Industry classificationMackay region​Queensland
Number of farms% of RegionNumber of farmsContribution of region to state total %
Sugar Cane Growing     77947.3   2,83127.5
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)       64639.2   8,4667.6
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)          482.9         6797.1
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing          402.4        8674.6
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming          352.1        6885.1
Other Grain Growing          332.0     1,1273.0
Other Crop Growing nec

          161.0        3494.6


          503.0     2,9231.7

Total agriculture





Note: Estimated value of agricultural operations $40,000 or more.
Industries that constitute less than 1 per cent of the region's industry are not shown. nec Not elsewhere classified
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Sugar C ane farms ( 779 farms) were the most common, accounting for 47 per cent of all farms in the Mackay region, and 28 per cent of all sugarcane farms in Queensland.

Estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) is a measure of the value of production from farms and a measure of their business size. Around 25 per cent of farms in the Mackay region had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 4 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2015–16 . In comparison, 32 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $500, 000 and accounted for an estimated 75 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Mackay region in 2015–16.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Mackay region, 2015–16
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Mackay region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Note: Only farms with an EVAO of $50,000 or more in 2015–16 are included in these data. The scope of ABS Rural Environment and Agricultural Collections changed in 2015–16 to include only agricultural businesses with an EVAO of $40,000 or greater.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017

Farm financial performance

Estimates of financial performance are available for all broadacre, beef, grains, dairy and vegetable farms in Queensland.

Fisheries sector

Mackay is a key port for commercial and recreational fishing. The East Coast Trawl Fishery is the largest of Queensland's commercial fisheries operating in the region targeting mostly prawns, but also harvesting bugs, squid, and scallops. Other commercial species harvested by Queensland fisheries in the region include shark, crab, mackerel, mullet and barramundi.

Recreational fishing is popular amongst Mackay region residents—30 per cent of the population fish at least once each year, significantly higher than the state average of 17 per cent (QDAFF 2015). They fish in local coastal waters and adjacent reefs within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for reef species such as cod, sweetlips, stripey snapper, red emperor and barred javelin. In the central coast catchment there is recreational fishing in estuaries and freshwater reaches of rivers for mud crab, bream, whiting and barramundi. Most of the fishing effort is reported by boat fishers in marine waters. This region is a popular destination for fishers travelling from other regions of Queensland and elsewhere in Australia. In 2010–11, the most recent year for which data are available, the Mackay area contributed $8 million of Queensland's total value of aquaculture production ($86.3 million), accounting for 9 per cent of the total value of production (Wingfield 2012). The Mackay area produced 501 tonnes of aquaculture production accounting for 7 per cent of the volume of Queensland aquaculture production, utilising 178 hectares of ponds. The aquaculture industry in the area employed approximately 41 persons in 2010–11. Aquaculture species produced in the Mackay area include prawns and barramundi.

In 2015–16 the total gross value of Queensland's fisheries production was $291.1 million, a decrease of 1 per cent ($2.1 million) from 2014–15. Queensland contributed 10 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2015–16. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 60 per cent ($175.9 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 40 per cent ($118.3 million).

Queensland's wild-catch fisheries sector provides a range of fisheries products. The highest contribution being from prawns, which account for 36 per cent of the total value of wild-catch fisheries production with a value of $62.7 million, followed by coral trout (15 per cent; $26.8 million) and crabs (14 per cent; $24.2 million). Over the last decade the real value of Queensland's wild-caught fisheries products has reduced by 37 per cent. Prawns, snapper and shark, showed the largest decline in the value of production over the past decade, reducing by 35 per cent, 77 per cent and 66 per cent respectively. Competition from imported prawns in the domestic market has also placed significant downward pressure on prices in recent years.

The value of Queensland's aquaculture production has increased by 4 per cent in 2015–16 to $118.3 million. Prawn and barramundi farming account for the largest share of production by value, with prawns accounting for 68 per cent, and $80.5 million of production, followed by barramundi (25 per cent; $29.3 million).

Commonwealth fisheries active in the waters off the east coast of Queensland include the Commonwealth Eastern Tuna and Billfish fishery (mainly supplying export markets with tuna) and the Coral Sea Fishery.

In 2015–16, Queensland's fisheries product exports were valued at $199.6 million. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen fish, prawns and rock lobster. Hong Kong, Japan and the United States are the major destinations for Queensland fisheries exports, accounting for 42 per cent, 17 per cent and 14 per cent of the total value of exports in 2015–16, respectively. Other major export destinations include China (7 per cent) and Vietnam (4 per cent).

Recreational fishing is popular in Queensland. The results of the 2013–14 state wide and regional recreational fishing survey report that recreational fishing continues to be a popular activity; however the participation rate has dropped from 17 per cent in 2010 to 15 per cent in 2013. In the 12 months prior to November 2013 approximately 700,000 Queenslanders went recreational fishing (QDAF 2015). Total expenditure in the sector is estimated to be between $350 million and $420 million in 2008–09 (DEEDI 2009). The tropical waters of Queensland are also a key area for tourism, attracting anglers from around the world and Australia. Popular target species include crabs, prawns and a range of finfish species including cods and groupers, coral trout, redthroat emperor, rosy snapper, and mackerel. For freshwater activity some key species caught include barramundi, eels, silver perch, and yabby and blueclaw crayfish.

Forestry sector

In 2014–15 , the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the Mackay Region was 1,400 hectares evenly split between hardwood and softwood. The main softwood species planted are Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea) and hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii).

In 2011, there were 3.5 million hectares of native forests in the Mackay region, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland (2.1 million hectares), Eucalypt medium open (532,400 hectares) and Acacia (340,400 hectares) forest types. There were 2.1 million hectares of native forests in leasehold forests, 243,100 hectares were in nature conservation reserves and 235,000 hectares were multiple-use public forest available for timber production. Major timber processing industries in the Mackay region are located at Proserpine.

In 2015–16 , the total plantation area in Queensland was 230,400 hectares, comprised of 34,800 hectares of hardwood plantations, 195,500 hectares of softwood plantations and 100 hectares of other plantations.

In In 2015–16 , the volume of native hardwood logs harvested in Queensland was 285,000 cubic metres valued at $43 million. The volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 14,000 cubic metres valued at $1 million. The volume of softwood harvested, including native cypress pines, was 2.6 million cubic metres valued at $ 205 million.

The sales and service income generated from the sale of wood products in Queensland was estimated at $2.6 billion in 2015–16. Sales and service income for paper and paper products is not available for 2015−16.

In 2016, Queensland's forestry sector employed 9,518 workers (0.4 per cent of the total employed workforce) compared with 12,840 (0.6 per cent) in 2011. The number of people employed includes the following categories: forestry, logging, support services, timber wholesaling; and wood, pulp, paper and converted paper product manufacturing.

Areas of native forest, by tenure, Mackay region
Shows the areas of native forest, by tenure in the Mackay region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.

Source: ABARES Australia's State of the Forests Report 2013


ABS 2017, Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2016, cat. no. 3235.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 19 September 2017.

DEEDI 2009, Prospects for Queensland's primary industries 2009–10, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Brisbane, Queensland.

QDAF 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Surveys, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Wingfield, M 2012, Ross Lobegeiger report to farmers: Aquaculture Production Survey Queensland 2010–11 (PDF 1.63 MB), Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Brisbane, Queensland, October.​

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Last reviewed:
07 Nov 2018