North Queensland Airports

North Queensland Airports Upgrade Project

NAIF’s loan of up to $155 million will be used to upgrade key infrastructure at Cairns and Mackay airports within the next five years.

Investment Decision

April 2024


Transport & Logistics


Cairns, Mackay, Queensland

Cairns Airport airbridge to a plane




Length of loan up to

10 years




505 During construction


1,497 During operation

Project Status

Investment Decision

NAIF’s loan of up to $155 million will be used to upgrade key infrastructure at Cairns and Mackay airports within the next five years.

About North Queensland Airports

The North Queensland Airports Group is comprised of Cairns Airport, Mackay Airport and Mackay Airport Hotel.

Project overview

NAIF is providing NQA with a loan of up to $155 million to upgrade Cairns and Mackay Airports.

At Cairns Airport, the first major project involves refurbishing the International Terminal (T1 Upgrade). This marks the first significant upgrade to the terminal in 30 years and includes expanding its footprint, enhancing the departure lounge and baggage reclaim hall, upgrading baggage handling and security systems, and improving retail and bathroom amenities.

Another critical project at Cairns Airport is the overhaul of Airside Infrastructure. This involves replacing critical taxiways serving both domestic and international terminals due to their end-of-life status. Replacement overlays will accommodate increased airport capacity and support projected growth for the next 15-20 years. Additionally, new power cabling around the runway will reduce maintenance downtime, ensuring safe operations.

The Eastern Aviation Precinct (EAP) is another significant endeavour at Cairns Airport. Executed in two stages, this project will increase aero stand capacity in the first stage to support increased activity at the domestic terminal. The second stage will establish three commercial lots, a designated heliport zone, and connecting access roads and services to create a new general aviation precinct above the maximum 100-year flood level, facilitating growth for existing general aviation operators.

At Mackay Airport, a major project involves the complete overhaul of Airside Infrastructure. This entails a planned overlay of the entire runway. Additional sections of taxiways and aprons will also be overlayed to reduce maintenance downtime and ensure continued safe operational standards.

The Milton Street Precinct project at Mackay Airport will deliver enabling infrastructure to a greenfield leasehold site within the airport boundary. Located close to the central business and industrial districts of Mackay, this project includes constructing roads and connecting services to create 25,000 square meters of serviced lots for a mix of retail and commercial businesses.

“This loan recognises our airports’ critical roles across the Cairns and Mackay regions, contributing to tourism, freight, business, the resources industry and more. We are grateful for this support from the NAIF and look forward to showcasing these enhancements to locals and visitors.”

Cairns Airport Chief Executive Officer Richard Barker

Related links



Indigenous Engagement

Traditional owners of this land

  • Mackay - Yuwibara

The Yuwibara people are the Traditonal Owners of the land where Mackay Airport is located.

NQA’s Indigenous Engagement Strategy (IES) focuses on achieving outcomes at both Cairns and Mackay airports.

The IES for NQA includes a staged Indigenous employment target which starts at 3% in the 2024/25 financial year, increasing to 6% by the 2026/27 financial year. The project also includes a staged construction-based target of 3% Indigenous participation, with that participation target increasing to 4.5% by the 2026/27 financial year. 

Other features include: 

  • exploring pathways for Indigenous people to enter the aviation industry; 
  • building and strengthening relationships with local Traditional Owners across both airports, 
  • developing a First Nations Advisory Committee, which will provide advice to NQA on the delivery of IES obligations
  • supporting Indigenous employment outcomes through contractors; 
  • both airports commissioning and showcasing local Indigenous artworks; 
  • supporting scholarships and employment pathways; and 
  • review the IES delivery with key stakeholders every two years.