With most Queensland mining towns located far into the state’s dry, remote interior, the industrial centre of Gladstone enjoys a unique and enviable position. Perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean overlooking the sun-speckled waters of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, Gladstone is one of very few towns in Queensland to offer residents a thriving, job-rich, resource-driven economy along with a water-front lifestyle, ocean breezes, and seafood fresh off the trawler, QMEB discovers.
At various stages throughout its history, Gladstone has been a short-lived convictsettlement, sleepy fishing village, and the smaller, less-glamourous sister of beef capital, Rockhampton, to the north. The tides have now turned with the port-side city outstripping its regional city neighbours in terms of economic growth, population growth and also livability.
Full steam ahead
The Gladstone region is home to a thriving 21st century industrial base served by one of Australia’s busiest ports, the Port of Gladstone. The Port is Queensland’s largest
multi-commodity port, handling more than 83 million tonnes of cargo annually. It is the world’s fifth largest coal export port and the fourth largest port in Australia.
A major industrial cluster, where economic competitiveness is balanced with steadily
improving environmental performance, Gladstone’s development potential is
underpinned by the 22,000 hectare Gladstone State Development Area, which offers a range of development-ready sites, established infrastructure and growing possibilities for economic development to drive the region’s sustainable growth. And with recent and continuing investment in the LNG industry, which is expected to play an increasingly important role in global energy markets over coming years, the Gladstone region’s strong industrial growth looks set to continue.
Currently Gladstone is home to some of Australia’s biggest resources and industrial
Queensland Alumina Ltd. Recognised as one of the world’s largest alumina refineries. The production of alumina, a white powder, is the intermediate stage between mining the ore of bauxite and producing the metal, aluminium.
Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun (RTAY). The first greenfield refinery to be constructed in Australia for over two decades. RTAY represents Rio Tinto Alcan’s first 100 per cent owned and operated alumina refinery and contributes significantly to the major aluminium industry resources of RTA. The world-class refinery incorporates leading edge technology and environmental design features.
Boyne Smelters Ltd (BSL). Australia’s largest aluminium smelter. The smelter uses alumina produced by the Queensland Alumina Limited refinery to complete the third stage of the aluminium production process.
Cement Australia Gladstone. The largest cement plant in Australia utilising state of the art technology. The plant is Australia’s most efficient and is the leading environmental performer in the industry, paving the way for lucrative business opportunities in the Asia Pacific area.
Orica Australia. Operates a 9,000 tonnes a year chlor-alkali plant, a 590,000 tonnes a year technical grade ammonium nitrate plant as well as an 80,000 tonnes a year sodium cyanide plant. The complex is located on the Yarwun Industrial Estate, 10 kilometres from Gladstone’s city centre.
NRG Gladstone Power Station. Queensland’s largest power station with a generating capacity of 1,680 megawatts. The station uses around four million tonnes of coal each year railed from coalfields in Central Queensland.
The Gladstone Area Water Board owns and operates Awoonga Dam on the Boyne River, which supplies raw and treated water to industrial customers and the Local Government of Gladstone Regional Council by pipeline from Lake Awoonga.
Queensland Energy Resources (QER) has a small open-cut oil shale mine and a recently-constructed small-scale technology demonstration plant to showcase the reliability and performance of Paraho IITM technology to community and stakeholders.
Major industry in Gladstone is supported by the region’s thriving and world-class engineering, construction and manufacturing sectors while the region’s traditional agricultural base in cattle farming and horticultural production continues to underpin the Gladstone region’s economic base. As might be expected, there are more technicians and trades workers in Gladstone Regional Council area than any other occupation.
Taking advantage of the city’s large and protected marina precinct, Gladstone’s fishing industry is known for producing Queensland’s best seafood. Gladstone is famous for being the home of the mud crab with local restaurateurs claiming the tasty crustacean as a regional delicacy. Reef fish, giant prawns, sea scallops, bugs, oysters and freshwater crayfish also find their way from Gladstone trawlers to the food-lovers plate.
Balancing work with play
The Gladstone Region is home to over 57,000 people and has all the services and amenities you’d expect from a thriving regional metropolis including a university, several hospitals, cultural precincts, substantial tourist and shopping facilities and a recently upgraded airport.
The Gladstone Marina is a popular spot for boat owners and is home to the award winning Spinnaker Park. This huge parkland offers two and a half kilometres of walking track that meanders through native flora, wetlands, ponds and a beach cove. From this track it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the rare snubfin dolphin at play in the harbour.
The main street of Gladstone, Goondoon Street, showcases the city’s rich heritage and magnificently preserved buildings, including the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum built in 1934. Modern sculptures stand in stark contrast to heritage-listed buildings as a testament to how industry shaped this important regional city.
Tondoon Botanic Gardens
Situated on 83 hectares at Mount Biondello, Gladstone’s Tondoon Botanic Gardens is home to more than 1,500 species of plants from the Port Curtis region and Tropical North Queensland. Lake Tondoon situated in the centre of the gardens once provided the source of Gladstone’s water supply until 1945. Today the lake provides a habitat for a variety of freshwater birds.
Gateway to the Reef
Contrasting its industrial side, Gladstone sits on the cusp of the world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. The city is known as the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef, home to what many consider to be some of the top dive and snorkelling sites in the world, including:
Lady Musgrave Island
Lady Musgrave Island is an uninhabited coral cay, composed entirely of sand and coral fragments. The island attracts divers, campers, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts from around the world who come to see the Green and Loggerhead turtles, huge manta rays, harmless reef sharks and a underwater menagerie of strange and colourful reef fish. The Green and Loggerhead turtles nest on Lady Musgrave Island between November and February, prompting authorities to close the island to campers from February to March to protect turtle hatchlings. From Gladstone, visitors can catch a day trip to the island. Cruise boats can moor alongside a floating pontoon known as ‘Reef Santuary’, a stone’s throw from the island. Lady Musgrave can be enjoyed a number of ways including glass-bottom boat trips, guided walks, turtle and manta ray discovery adventures and reef fishing tours.
Heron Island is located just off the coast of Gladstone and boasts some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Heron Island is also a coral cay and is surrounded by 24 square kilometres of pristine reef. Like Lady Musgrave, Heron Island is a favourite nesting site for turtles and is home to a huge array of seabirds. Visitors to the island can take a guided walking tour of the reef, view underwater life from the coral submarine, and enjoy a range of diving activities. There is one resort on the island offering several standards of accommodation designed to suit all tastes and budgets.
Port of Gladstone
The Port of Gladstone is Queensland’s largest multi-commodity port, housing the world’s fourth largest coal export terminal. Situated within a natural deepwater harbour, the Port of Gladstone, along with its northern counterpart, Port Alma Shipping Terminal, plays a pivotal role in delivering the region’s natural resources and finished products to customers worldwide.
Port Alma Shipping Terminal facilitates the import and export of niche market products including ammonium nitrate, explosives, general cargo, salt, frozen beef, tallow and scrap metal. Collectively, Port of Gladstone and Port Alma Shipping Terminal handle more than 70 million tonnes of cargo each year, exporting over 30 products to over 30 countries.
Port Alma Shipping Terminal is located 62 kilometres east of Rockhampton on the southern tip of the Fitzroy River delta. The ports storage land totals 140 hectares and is situated at nearby Bajool, approximately 20 kilometres from Port Alma Shipping Terminal along the Bruce Highway.
Coal represents 70% of the total cargo exported through Port of Gladstone. The majority (approximately 75%) of coal handled at the port is coking coal and is exported to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Italy and France for high quality steel manufacturing. Approximately 25% of coal exported via Port of Gladstone is thermal, which is exported to fuel the boilers of power stations in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Israel.
While the Port of Gladstone is internationally recognised as a major bulk port, it also caters to all forms of containerised and general cargoes. Containerised cargoes are mainly sourced from local major industry and include primarily aluminium, chemicals and cement. General cargoes include breakbulk cargoes such as bagged products and aluminium, project cargo for new/expanding industry and heavy lifts.
The Port of Gladstone is also home to the Gladstone Marina, featuring barbecue facilities and playgrounds, wheelchair access, boardwalk shops, a floating marina system and fully equipped outdoor stage. The Marina area is also home to the Gladstone campus of the Central Queensland University.
A little further afield (25 km south of Gladstone) is Lake Awoonga. The recreation area has free barbecues, swimming, landscaped walking trails, as well as a caravan park. The lake has been stocked with several fish species since 1996, and over 2 million barramundi have been released. In addition to the fishing, Lake Awoonga has many natural attractions, especially the wildlife, with more than 225 species of birds (or over 27% of Australia’s bird species) found in the region. Lake Awoonga is also the primary source of Gladstone’s water supply.
Boyne Island and Tannum Sands
The twin communities of Boyne Island and Tannum Sands are located just 15 minutes drive south of the Gladstone city centre and have grown in popularity due to their pristine beaches and small town vibe.
Boyne Island is located on the west bank of the Boyne River with the South Trees Inlet cutting it off from the mainland. The town stands beside its sister city, Tannum Sands, located directly across the river on the eastern bank.
Originally Boyne Island was used for sheep grazing, followed by small crops, horticulture, fishing and timber. Now Boyne Island is primarily a residential centre for the nearby Boyne Island aluminium smelter and Gladstone industries.
Australia’s largest aluminium smelter, Boyne Smelters Ltd., is located north of the town separated by a buffer zone.
The smelter has been in operation since 1982 and over time has undergone extensive expansion. The smelter underwent a A$1 billion expansion in 1997 introducing a third reduction line which increased aluminium production from 260,000 to more than 558,000 tonnes per annum.
The smelter is again undergoing significant modernisation with the re-building of two carbon baking furnaces with upgraded technology. The new furnaces will be more energy efficient and reduce onsite greenhouse gas emissions.
Boyne Island is also home to the Boyne Tannum Hookup, a popular fishing event held on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. This event attracts keen fisher-folk from around the country with more than 3,000 entrants signing up.
Tannum Sands has a surf beach with a Surf Club found along the main beach. It is one of very few surf beaches located in Central Queensland. The Millennium Esplanade winds along the beachfront providing locals and visitors with picnic shelters, barbecues and walking paths, as well as access to long stretches of sunny, sandy beach.