An image of the Mulgrave River in Carins, Queensland

The 2024-25 State Budget included an $87.5 million increase in funding for the Cairns Water Security Stage 1 Project, bringing the total funding to $195 million.  

Jointly funded with the Federal Government, the project aims to strengthen Cairns’ future water supply and includes a new water intake at the Mulgrave River, a new water treatment plant and water reservoirs at Gordonvale and supporting infrastructure to connect the new intake to the existing water network. 

Queensland Water Minister, Glenn Butcher, met with Cairns Regional Council Mayor, Amy Eden, and local MPs Minister Michael Healy and Craig Crawford, to discuss the increased funding from the State Government and the next steps for the project, including project commencement in August 2024. 

Mr Butcher also inspected the Freshwater Creek Water Treatment Plant and spoke with Mr Eden about the measures being implemented by Council that aim to further bolster the region’s water security, including installation of smart meters and other water saving measures. 

The $87.5 million funding builds on previous investments in Cairns’ water security, including the upgrade to the Freshwater Creek Water Treatment Plant, which received more than $1 million through the Building our Regions Round 6 grant program. 

Flood protection works will also be undertaken at council’s Behana Creek intake, aiming to improve the quality and resilience of the water source which bolsters continuity of water supplies in times of flood. The existing treatment plant at Behana will be replaced by the new water treatment plant being built at Gordonvale. 

In December 2023, Cairns Regional Council awarded design and construction contract to John Holland Queensland after a 12-month procurement process. 

The new Mulgrave River intake will draw water from the river, through the riverbank, filtering it through sand and gravel as it moves to the intake and then is extracted and delivered to the water treatment plant. 

Construction on the $195 million project is expected to commence in August 2024 and the project is expected to be completed in 2026. Construction is expected to support more than 1,600 construction jobs. 

Queensland Premier, Steven Miles, said, “I am doing what matters for Queenslanders, which means delivering water security for Cairns because we know this region is growing. 

“Our vocal local MPs, the council and the community have all said that water security is a priority for Cairns, so we are listening and delivering.   

“By investing $195 million into this project, we can help Council keep their costs down and this benefits ratepayers.” 

Mr Butcher said, “We back our councils, and we back Cairns – we’re always there to help councils with their water infrastructure needs. 

“I know this is such an important water security project and I look forward to working with Mayor Eden and the council team to see construction kick-off in the coming months.” 

Mr Healy said, “Water security will future-proof Cairns. This announcement will secure the water needs for the future growth of our city and region. 

“We know cost of living is a challenge. We’re doing everything we can to work with council to keep their rates as low as possible. 

“I thank my fellow Far North MPs for their advocacy, and we’ve managed to get this budget funding over the line on behalf of our constituents.” 

Mr Crawford said, “Water is life. We’ve always backed the importance of this project. Cairns residents and local industries need water security.” 

Speaker of Parliament and Mulgrave MP, Curtis Pitt, said, “This isn’t just an infrastructure project – it’s a cost-of-living project. This $195 million is $195 million Council doesn’t have to stump up on its own; which is driving down rates and water bills thanks to the Queensland Government. 

“I’m proud to be part of a team in FNQ that is delivering the infrastructure our growing community needs.” 

Ms Eden said, “We’re delighted the State Government has increased its commitment to Cairns Water Security Stage 1 to $195 million, recognising the critical importance of this project for our community. 

“Cairns and the surrounding region is a beautiful part of the world and we understand why people are moving here to make their home.” 

Ms Eden also said that the high tourism population adds more pressure to the water system. 

“We have made really good progress working to educate Cairns residents to be waterwise but there is potential for even more to be achieved. 

“In particular, there are good opportunities with the transient populations through our tourism operators about the importance of conserving water and careful water use so that everyone – residents and visitors alike – uses water wisely. 

“We know that every drop counts especially when every drop is underpinned by significant capital investment.” 

Image credit: Paul Fauntleroy/ 

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