First look at the Aquis EIS

The release of the Aquis Environment Impact Statement (EIS, available here) has given everyone concerned a ton of reading to do! We decided to focus on the Economic section (Chapter 13) and even that runs to 44 pages; even the Executive Summary is 88 pages!
Anyway, a first reading of the Economic section highlights the huge impact that the project is likely to have at a local and regional (and even state) level. Even if we allow for some over-egging of the knock-on impacts via multipliers etc., it is clear that the project will have real and tangible positive results for the area.
The EIS talks about a peak of construction jobs in 2017 of some 3,750 direct, 2,825 indirect in FNQ and another 2,250 indirect elsewhere in QLD. By the time the resort if fully operational in 2027 jobs are estimated at 20,000 direct, 30,675 indirect in FNQ and 3.146 indirect elsewhere in QLD; these are huge numbers in the context of about 110,000 in employment (Conus Trend) in the Cairns area in May 2014. The report acknowledges that “a large number of positions are likely to be sourced outside of the region from Queensland and the rest of Australia”. Later in the report the figure of 40% is used for the scale of “construction and operational workforce that would be drawn from other parts of the State and rest of Australia”. That still means that 60% of the jobs are anticipated to be filled by Cairns locals and the other 40% moving into the area would obviously also have positive knock-on effects in terms of local demand and economic activity.
In terms of visitors the EIS suggests 74% of visitors would be international (and within that 60% from China). The remaining 26% made up of 11% from the FNQ area and 15% from elsewhere in Australia.
The anticipated impact on the FNQ’s Gross Regional Product (GRP) is quite simply extraordinary! The chart below, taken from the report, suggests GRP at almost 74% above the “non-Aquis” baseline in 2027. {Although the report talks about “central and low scenarios being detailed in this chart there is no sign of the “low” option anywhere…this is one of quite a few editing errors we found within the report.} While we would be highly sceptical that a single project (even of this scale) could have such an impact, without access to the full assumptions inherent in their model it is impossible to make further comment. Suffice to say that even if these projections are double what they might be the impact on the region will still be huge.

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