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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Tom Hedley Roy Lavis George Chapman Charles Woodward Keith de Lacy John & Juanita O'Brien Udo Jattke Tony Baker Sandra Harding Lou Piccone Russell Beer Ross Straguszi & Peter Hopkins Richard & David Ireland Adam Adams Simon Wild Caroline de Costa Fred Ariel Rob Giason Lui Garozzo clive skarott Stephen Olle Jeremy Blockey Beatrice Booth Denis Keeffe Shelley Evans



who through their accumen, vision and activities have helped shape this community. The influence of some of those we have chosen has been over many decades. For others, their impact has been more recent. The list reflects the economic drivers of Cairns: construction, housing, tourism, education, sport, commerce. There will be many who disagree with the criteria and level of influence. There will also be others who simply think the influence of some of those selected is a negative. Compiling the list also became a matter of who to leave out as much as who to include. Names such as Frank Gasparin, Joe Emanuele, John Grey, Noel Pearson, Murray Moule, Don Fry, Bob Norman, Mike Burgess and Jim Wallace were considered but in the end did not make the list of 25. Not surprisingly, the almost unanimous choice of those involved for the No.1 position was Tom Hedley. Despite the troubles he is going through with his publicly-listed Hedley Leisure and Gaming Property Fund, the influence of the former plumber turned developer in Cairns over the past decade has been nothing short of enormous. His selection is sure to bring mixed reactions, but his influence cannot be denied.


ICTIONARY definitions of influence reveal its meaning as the effect of something on a person, thing, or event. It also means the power to sway; the power that somebody has to affect other people's thinking or actions by means of argument, example, or force of personality. With those definitions in mind, Business Week has compiled a list of the 25 most influential people in business in Cairns. It is a list that we trust will create some debate and at the same time give an insight into some of the people whose work, vision and drive helps shape Cairns.

Greg Punshon

[email protected]

It was not an easy list to compile and we called on a variety of people to help come up with nominations. Cairns Chamber of Commerce executive officer Sandy Whyte, Cairns Regional Council director of communications and long-time observer of life in Cairns Gary Schofield, The Cairns Post general manager Nick Trompf, editor Mark Alexander and Business Week writers all had their say. The boundaries for nominations were limited: no politicians, public servants or media personalities, rather people

our most influential

Greg Punshon

[email protected]

our most influential



Success is not found in what you achieve, but rather in who you have become

­ Tom Hedley's philosophy of life

Chief executive officer of The Hedley Group; CEO Hedley Leisure and Gaming Property Fund; CEO Hedley Constructions, Joinery and Metalwork; CEO Hedley Plumbing and Sheetmetal; CEO Hedley Liquor Group; President of Cairns Jockey Club

If Tom Hedley was doing something, there must be money in it. His deals influenced property prices; his employment generating opportunities drew hundreds of people to Cairns to work and his personal interests ­ backed by his personal fortune ­ made news. It was his love of racehorses which saw the Cairns Jockey Club remain at Cannon Park. Had it not, quite possibly the racing industry here would have withered and died. One way or another, Tom Hedley has been ­ and remains ­ the most influential person in business in Cairns.





N world economic circles it is said when the US economy sneezes the world catches a cold. The analogy applies equally to Tom Hedley, the plumber who rose to a place on the list of Australia's richest men, and the Cairns region economy. The selection of Tom Hedley as the most influential person in the Cairns business world was an easy choice. His has been the name synonymous with the building boom in Cairns. And as much as Tom Hedley has tried to remain a low-key figure in all the success and recent share market turbulence that has surrounded his publicly listed business arm HLG, his influence is remarkable. The fortunes of no other Cairns business are regularly featured in the national press and talk in the pubs, cafes and virtually anywhere around town centres on what Tom is doing or not doing. Over recent months much of the talk has centred around the fortunes of HLG, the hotel property trust Tom launched onto the sharemarket last year. The news has not been good as the share price has plummeted yet the business remains solid with dividends of 16 per cent. Tom Hedley has personally had to wear at many times uninformed speculation and comment from the financial press and locally he has felt the sharp edge of the Tall Poppy Syndrome. As with the rest of the industry, Tom's construction activities around Cairns have slowed and he has sold off land and other interests ­ much of which he wonders why he acquired in the first place ­ to keep things moving along. That, however, is the nature of the Hedley empire's business: buying, building, selling. Tom Hedley's influence started to emerge when he began buying bottle shops and hotels. Virtually every suburban pub in Cairns had his name on it. That side of the business ballooned to the stage where an on-again off-again marriage with Coles Myer was finally consummated. It was the deal which put Tom Hedley on to the national stage. He sold the businesses, kept ownership of the properties and secured an income stream from the leases. Around Cairns the skyline has changed in the past five years, and the name on most of the buildings has been Hedley. His deals ­ and Tom will quite openly admit to that being the nature of his business ­ have led the market.


ONG term, few people have had more impact on the shape and physical entity of Cairns than Roy Lavis. From the foundations up, Cairns Earthmoving Contractors ­ the company he founded with wife Alma in 1977 ­ has had an input into constructions large and small. From roads to houses to airports and the Esplanade, the CEC Group has been a major player in the development of Cairns. Similarly with the fortunes of Cairns's other publicly listed company HLG, the CEC Group has not had a good time of late. Its share price has been shattered and it has begun an asset disposal program aimed at taking it back to its core business. It is at such times that the extent of the company's influence on the business community is realised. While it has shed more than 150 employees in recent weeks, sold or is in the process of selling considerable tracts of land and disposing of some sectors of its business, CEC still employs more than 300 people across its businesses and has a hand in a considerable number of projects. Roy Lavis has never been a highprofile person, rather going about

his business and building it from a small company into one of the major development players in the region, if not the state. He built his business by seeing opportunities and grabbing them, mostly in a successful manner. CEC developed into a vertically integrated company with one arm providing the other with raw materials, expertise and completed products. From Townsville to Cooktown and west to Mt Isa, it has acquired land holdings and small businesses. Aside from the construction industry where the CEC name has been prominent, not so publicly known are his roles in the community. It has become accepted that if you want help with something, you go to see Roy Lavis. Virtually every major public event in Cairns has some form of input from CEC, but most of it goes unnoticed. Mr Lavis's community input includes a 25-year involvment with the Cairns Show Association, serving as president several times. As Red Shield Business Appeal chairman, he has been a big supporter of The Salvation Army, spending seven years on its advisory board.

Chairman of The Chapman Group of companies and Honeycombe's Investment Group; Director of Tattersall's Ltd; Substantial shareholder of Greyhound; Chairman of GFB Fisheries Limited; Property developer




mergers have been of significant importance. He was chairman of TAB Queensland Limited when it was floated, eventually becoming UNiTAB which he chaired until its merger with gaming giant Tattersall's. He was a key player and remains a substantial shareholder in the Greyhound bus group. With a looseknit group of developers known as the Honeycombe Investment Group, Mr Chapman's most recent development has been the highly visible Harbour Lights on Cairns Waterfront. Less well known are his aquaculture projects in Cairns and Townsville and his beef cattle property south of Townsville. He has been a Cairns councillor, director of Channel 10, a director of Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation (now Tourism Queensland) and was founding chairman of the Cairns Regional Development Bureau. Mr Chapman was part of the small team which negotiated the local ownership of the Cairns Airport.





Founding director and chief executive officer of CEC Group; Philanthropist

EORGE Chapman has been an influential figure in the Cairns economy for more than 30 years. As the patriarch of the Chapman family group of companies, George Chapman has regularly been listed in the BRW top 200 rich list, but he has never been one to chase the limelight, preferring instead to keep a low personal profile. After starting his working life as a surveyor, Mr Chapman has carved out a niche in Cairns and Far North Queensland that few have matched. His reach covers a wide spectrum of business nationally and locally. Tourism, transport, property development, agriculture and aquaculture as well as his role in numerous not-for-profit community organisations. The Chapman Group employs more than 200 people with the most visible and public enterprise being the award-winning Skyrail rainforest cableway, one of Cairns's most noted tourist attractions. He has been involved in several major national businesses where

our most influential

our most influential






Managing director of CaPTA Group; Chairman of Blue Sky Brewery; Director of Trinity Software; Founding chairman COUCH; Philanthropist







HARLES Woodward's association with Cairns has been lifelong. His family has been prominent in business for more than 100 years, but it isn't simply effluxion of time that qualifies Charles for a place on the list of the city's most influential business people. His life has been dominated by the city's tourism industry ­ an industry into which his input and impact has been enormous. As managing director of the CaPTA Group (the name stands for Cairns and Ports Trips & Attractions), Charles Woodward hasn't just been a participant, he has been an industry leader and innovator, one of a handful of people who saw the potential of Cairns as a tourist destination and has worked to develop it to an international destination. And the Woodward family business growth has been based around Cairns's magnificent natural attractions. The list of CaPTA Group businesses includes Rainforestation Nature Park, Tropic Wings Coach Tours, RnR White Water Rafting, The Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary, Cairns Wildlife Dome, Jungle Tours, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Blue Sky Bike Tours (starting in July) and CaPTA Booking Centre. All up, more than 300 people work for the Woodward family.

As well as being an industry leader, CaPTA is one of the few private companies in Queensland to have successfully implemented a STEP indigenous employment program as well as a school-based trainee program. Charles Woodward also has made major contributions to local industry associations where his knowledge and experience are considered vital. More recently he joined Ben Newman as director of the soonto-be opened Blue Sky Brewery, a boutique brewery which will put the Cairns name back on a locallyproduced beer. Outside his business interests, Charles Woodward is known for his love of rugby union as a former Queensland rep player and long-time supporter of the sport at a local level, including president of the CDRU. He was also a founding director of the Cairns Taipans. Last year it was the lack of treatment facilities for Cairns cancer patients which saw him use his business knowledge to help found COUCH, the fund-raising group which has captured the hearts and dollars of the Cairns community and which has been influential in convincing the State Government of the need for better facilities for cancer sufferers in this region.

Chairman of Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL), Macarthur Coal, Trinity Ltd, Cubbie Group Ltd and Global Sugar Alliance; Director of Reef Casino; Vice-president Qld division of the Australian Institute of Company Directors



Cairns Taipans chief executive; Dealer principal of Pacific Toyota, Lexus of Cairns and the Pacific Group


Cairns Taipans co-owner; Owner of Lunds 4WD, Pacific Hino, NQ Auto, Coral Motors and Mulgrave Motors Philanthropist

ERHAPS it's kind of cheating or plain grammatically wrong to list two people as "one" of the most influential people in Cairns. However, in the case of father and daughter team John and Juanita O'Brien, we'd argue it's reasonable, given their high-profile roles. Last year Juanita became Australia's only female dealer principal of a major car dealership, after taking over from her father Pacific Toyota, Lexus of Cairns and the four service centres and three used car sale yards within the Pacific Group. This was on top of her role as Taipans chief executive, a job she accepted when just 31 years old. While divesting some of his empire to his daughter, John O'Brien remains influential, running several Northern Toyota dealerships including those in Emerald and Longreach along with Lunds 4WD, Pacific Hino, NQ Auto, Coral Motors and Mulgrave Motors. He earlier set up his Toyota dealership in 1987 when he bought a stake in Crossland Motors, buying the whole company 10 years later. In 2003, the family business was listed as one of Australia's top 400 private companies. John O'Brien's clout in sporting circles is well known, his key role being Cairns Taipans co-owner. It is in many ways thanks to the steady leadership of John O'Brien and Lui Garozzo that the Taipans have gone from perennial strugglers to serious title contenders. Despite accruing a fortune, the O'Briens have a reputation for generosity. John O'Brien received his Member of the Order of Australia two years ago for service to Cairns through youth development, cultural and sporting organisations, events and philanthropy.




Managing director of Quicksilver Group of Companies; Chairman of Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators



EITH de Lacy's influence in Queensland affairs did not end when he left politics in 1998 after 15 years as the Labor Member for Cairns, eight of that time as the state's treasurer. If anything, the influence of the selfmade businessman who grew up on a struggling tobacco farm at Mareeba grew markedly. And while he relinquished a number of his corporate and community positions a couple of years ago, Mr de Lacy still holds portfolios that cover a wide spectrum of life and business not just in Cairns, but right across Queensland. Sugar, coal, cotton and property development ­ all drivers of the Queensland economic menu ­ are where Mr de Lacy's expertise and experience are felt. The businesses where he holds corporate positions contribute billions to the Queensland economy annually. The Trinity Group has a growing influence in Cairns and the Far North through its wholly-owned subsidiary

Consolidated Properties. CEC and Consolidated only last month announced a $120 million joint venture to develop 8000 residential building lots in the region ­ the majority in Cairns. Mr de Lacy was a former chairman of CEC and was instrumental in taking the local construction company public as he was with Trinity and Macarthur Coal. There is no doubt his background with the CEC was instrumental in the two companies joining forces for the massive building project. As chairman of the Global Sugar Alliance, Mr de Lacy works the global markets for raw sugar exporting countries trying to get freer trade on global sugar markets. He was the first chairman of Ergon Energy and has held chairmanships with a wide range of not-for-profit organisations in his home town of Cairns and at a state level. Mr de Lacy has been awarded honorary doctorates from the James Cook and Central Queensland universities.


DO Jattke is proud of the many awards collected in his 30 years in the building industry. From the day he started his apprenticeship he had a desire to be the best. Among the titles he has won in building his company to one turning over more than $150 million a year are those of the biggest builder of multi-unit homes in the country and Queensland's biggest home builder with Glencorp and Glenwood Homes. Glencorp is a major player in the Cairns market and also in Townsville. His projects are big in terms of influence on the housing market as evidenced by his latest project, the development of the old Woree drive-in theatre site. Waterside Residential will eventually produce more than 500 two, three and four-bedroom apartments in a resort style complex. Recently Glencorp completed the nearby City Waters complex. Despite the size and style of these two developments, Mr Jattke's signature project in Cairns has been the Lakes Resort, the multi-award winning project he undertook with Ross Straguszi and Peter Hopkins. His input into the housing industry has been marked by becoming the youngest life member of the Housing Industry Association. Mr Jattke also is a key figure in training youngsters and bringing them into the building industry. And just to prove there is another side to his hectic schedule, he rescued the troubled wildlife park at Mareeba and has turned it into a major tourist attraction as the Cairns Wildlife and Safari Reserve.



Managing director of Glencorp; Owner of Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve; Member of TNQ TAFE Council


NYONE charged with moving hundreds of thousands of tourists to and from the Great Barrier Reef each year has got an influential position by default. Not that Quicksilver managing director Tony Baker's position on our list is based on anything other than merit. Mr Baker guided Quicksilver to a title in the Queensland Tourism Awards major tour or transport category last November, in a year when the company's long-standing leader Mike Burgess retired. Apart from Quicksilver, Mr Baker is chairman of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO), and is on the Alliance for Sustainable Tourism and the Tourism and Research Advisory Committee which reports to GBRMPA. Coming to the Far North in 2003, Mr Baker ran SkyRail before becoming Great Adventures' general manager for Green Island Resort. His move to the Far North followed 15 years at Seaworld including 10 as general manager. Moving to Quicksilver in 2005 he oversaw a large company expansion in 2005 and 2006. Mr Baker is optimistic about Far Northern tourism despite facing a rising Aussie dollar and increased competition with other destinations. "There are some issues affecting tourism in Australian but tourism always faces challenges from time to time," he said. "We certainly will be out there to sell and promote Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef."

our most influential

our most influential





Vice-chancellor, James Cook University; Chairman of Australian Statistics Advisory Council; Member of The Council of the Australian Institute of Marine Science



Owner of Piccone's IGA Edmonton and Manoora; Philanthropist



Chairman Advance Cairns; Chairman AFL Cairns; Chairman Catholic Diocese Finance Committee; Partner MacDonnell's Law






Joint owner of development company H & S Vision


S HEAD of the region's biggest educational institution, Professor Sandra Harding takes her position as one of the most influential figures in the Cairns business world. It will be during her tenure as head of the dual campus university that the future of tertiary education in the region takes its next step. JCU is not just an educational facility, it is a business with the potential to change the face of the region. Across the two campuses there are more than 15,000 students ­ 3600 in Cairns ­ with a business turnover of $289 million. Through marine sciences, tropical research decisions made about the future directions of study, and research at JCU will have world-wide impacts. JCU's ability to attract funding and students for these important areas will also attract businesses where high-value research can turn into multi-million dollar enterprises. For example, Cairns's location as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef sees its role in the study of global warming on coral reefs as internationally important. International education is a growing and lucrative business in Cairns with a growing number of international language colleges. Prof Harding took up her post at JCU in January 2007 ­ a time when many were questioning the viability of the regional university. As a former dean of business at the Queensland University of Technology, Prof Harding's strengths include her strong business acumen ­ something vital for the survival of a regional university.


OU Piccone never sought to make a big mark in the Cairns business world. As a young engineer who took leave of absence from his job more than 50 years ago to help look after his parents' butcher shop and bakery at Edmonton, he has become an icon of business excellence, a figure of fatherly advice, a man of vision and a constant in a rapidly changing community. While he is unofficially retired but far from "off the premises", Lou Piccone oversees two large independent supermarkets and shopping precincts where his face is still as prominent in the store as the family name is in the Cairns business world. Battling against the ever-growing influence of the retail giants Woolworths and Coles, Mr Piccone and his sons John and Peter have continued to grow their businesses to meet the challenges of their growing community. Only two months ago, he received approval for his next project ­ expansion of Piccone's Shopping Village at Edmonton ­ to service the rapidly growing southern suburbs. As part of his business philosophy, Lou Piccone has always endeavoured to put as much back into his community as he has got out of it. Hundreds of youngsters have been given their start in the working world by getting a job at Piccone's as high school students. Equally, thousands more have benefited from community support programs run through the IGA businesses.


USSELL Beer's influence will never be seen in terms of bricks and mortar that bear his name. Rather it will be his influence across a broad spectrum of life in Cairns that will leave a significant mark. His down-to-earth manner hides a sharp mind which sees him as chair of three of the city and region's major businesses, not necessarily the most high profile ones. As chairman of economic development organisation Advance Cairns, Mr Beer's role has taken on greater importance with the advent of regional councils. A new regional focus on business and industry opportunities will be a major factor in the economic well-being of Cairns over the next decade. From a time where Advance Cairns almost reached a crisis point at the beginning of year, Mr Beer has convinced new Cairns Regional Mayor Val Shier of the value of the organisation and is charting a new direction. AFL Cairns is more than just a sports organisation, it is a major business with $30 million worth of property and a commercial entity (Cazalys) turning over more than $100 million a year. Mr Beer is a believer of the "build it and they will come" philosophy and is committed to the further development of the Cazalys ground. The Catholic Church is one of the biggest employers in the region through schools from Cardwell to Cape York. Its education business impact alone is in hundreds of millions while the diocese is perhaps the biggest landholder here.


HE family name "Ireland' has been prominent in Cairns since the 1920s and Richard and David Ireland have done their bit to keep it that way. Since taking over the Ireland Group of companies in the mid-1990s, the business has continued to grow and now includes car brands Holden, HSV, Mitsubishi, Mercedes Benz Passenger Cars and Light Commercials, Smart, Chrysler Jeep Dodge and Isuzu Trucks. Irelands first became prominent in the Far North way back in 1923 when Francis Ireland, Richard and David's grandfather, ran a Holden dealership. Aside from their major car interests, the brothers are silent partners in several other companies in Cairns. Their community role extends beyond their powerful business positions. As chair of the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Richard Ireland is in charge of an organisation which manages $40million of federal government money over a four-year period. When donations from private organisations are included, this amount extends to almost $100million. While dismissing any suggestions of being a greenie, Richard Ireland is keen to ensure the long-term viability of the region. "I have an interest in making sure the environment is used sensibly and the assets that we have are used in the most sustainable way," he said. A key aim for the research centre is to create opportunities for scientific research in Cairns and Townsville. Richard Ireland predicts busy times for the car dealerships, partially due to declining growth rates on the property market.



Joint managing directors of the Ireland Group of Companies. Richard Ireland chairs the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre in Cairns and Townsville; is FNQ Youth Assistance Fund vice-president and past president of Rotary Club of Cairns


F YOU send kids to child care, enjoy a hit of golf or live in an apartment, there's a good chance Ross Straguszi will be involved. A quick glance around Cairns and the Far North shows the considerable influence he and his company H & S Vision wield. The company, which he owns jointly with Peter Hopkins, owns 45 distinct entities not only in the Far North, but also in places as far afield as Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong. H & S Vision's childcare empire is substantial, with three centres in Cairns, one in Innisfail and another in Atherton. Then there's the Lakes Resort at Edge Hill in which the business is a majority shareholder and Cairns One (C1), a 445-apartment complex opposite the Showgrounds Shopping Centre. H & S has a majority stake in Paradise Palms Country Club which has undergone a major refurbishment in recent times. It is thanks to H & S Vision and the Hedley Group that Paradise Palms is still around, after former owners, the Japanese company Daikyo, sold it to cover debts back home. In Redlynch, they own half the quarry, while in Cairns City they own the Ray White Franchise. Ross Straguszi normally has something on the go and the big one for this year is the Central Park development opposite Myers. It is expected to include 258 rooms in residential apartments and be finished about February next year. Whether companies like H & S Vision maintain their clout in years to come is a moot point.





Dealer principal Adams' Motors; Owner of national Night Owl convenience store chain

E'S hardly one to flaunt his position, but Adam Adams' purchase of the national Night Owl convenience store chain last year gave him some serious commercial clout. In a deal believed to be worth about $10-15million, Mr Adams became the franchisor of 42 Night Owl stores in Queensland and New South Wales, along with the six he operates directly in Cairns and Airlie Beach. Quite apart from Night Owl, Mr Adams runs the successful Adams Motor Group which has yards on Mulgrave Rd and the Southern Access Rd. Coming from a family involved in the automotive industry, Mr Adams set up his own dealership just over six years ago. He sees the Night Owl as an ideal business for a society in which people are short on time. Consequently he plans more acquisitions, looking at doubling his number of stores across the country in years to come. This expansion is likely to focus on Sydney and then to other states and New Zealand. "My strong interest in real estate and the need to continuously source good locations around the country will be paramount to the success of Night Owl stores," he said. Though he won't give away too much, he's also known to be considering some commercial property development around Cairns. While much of his empire is outside Cairns, Mr Adams is happy in the Far North where he lives with wife Katrina and their three children. As a rule he's never away from Cairns more than two nights a week.

our most influential

our most influential




Chief executive of the Wild Family Group


S A highly-regarded obstetrician who holds the posts of Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at James Cook Univerity's Cairns campus, Prof Caroline de Costa has had a direct influence on the lives of many women in Cairns and indeed around Australia. But it is her role in fighting the authorities for permission to become the first doctor in Australia to legally dispense the controversial abortion pill RU486 that wins her a position in this list. Her battle against politicians and ethicists was an inspiration and the influence of her battle will be felt for a long time to come by the women of Queensland. Backing her beliefs has been a trait of the mother of seven from a very early age and her fight for the right of Australian women to be given access to a drug that had approval for use elsewhere in the world made national headlines. She wrote thousands of letters, spoke to groups of women politicians, had her views published in medical journals and lobbied doctors for support for the right to be able to prescribe RU486. The boundaries of the drug's use have yet to extend beyond the Cairns region, but when it does become an accepted part of a woman's options around the country, it will be because of Caroline de Costa. As well as a number of medical books, Prof de Costa has delved into fiction and as you might expect of a woman of such strong views, they touch on controversial subjects.






Chief executive of Tourism Tropical North Queensland; Board member of Advance Cairns, Pacific Asian Travel Association and other tourism bodies; Advisory board chairman of Tropical North Queensland TAFE Institute

OB Giason is on a mission to boost international flight traffic at Cairns Airport back to the levels of the mid-1990s. It's a tough mission for the Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive, who faces the challenges of a rising Australian dollar (encouraging Australians to holiday overseas) and destination competition. Nonetheless, TTNQ had something of a coup earlier this year, organising charter flights between Cairns and Macao, helping Cairns get a foothold in the growing Chinese market. The challenge for regional tourism, he says, is to balance the transition of a slowing Japanese market, with the growing Chinese market and the ever-present markets of North America and Europe. A good-natured soul who enjoys a laugh, Mr Giason is nonetheless a determined and focused advocate for a vital industry. He's always on the move promoting the region, be it in Melbourne's Bourke St or the capital cities of Europe and Asia. While tourism is his primary role, he believes it is vital to build a range of industries in Cairns on which tourism can grow. Outside TTNQ, he is on the board of Advance Cairns, the Pacific Asian Travel Association, the Australian Association of Convention Bureaus, the Tourism Industry Council and the Tropical North Queensland TAFE Institute of which he is the advisory board chairman. Mr Giason was previously in charge of Tourism Tasmania which he ran for nine years, moving to the tropics in October 2005.



Co-owner of Cairns Taipans; Owner of product marketing company APMS and a Portsmith cold-storage company; Property investor



Chairman of Cairns Ports; CEO and company secretary of Electricity Credit Union; Chairman of the Tropical Rainforest Institute Review Committee


Obstetrician; Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at JCU; Social activist; Author




N FAR Northern aviation, few people have Simon Wild's influence. As chief executive of the Wild Family Group he was already a key player, but the purchase of Skytrans from the Barnard family in late 2006 significantly increased their stake in the industry. Since then Mr Wild has consolidated the aviation empire, merging Queensland Regional Airlines, aviation firm Corporate Air Services into the Skytrans brand. The move allowed the Skytrans to replace Cessna 404 aircraft with much larger Dash-8 on the key Cairns-Townsville route. The merger also saw an increase in passenger numbers, from 3500 a month with Skytrans in February 2007 to more than 12,000 a month currently. "There is no doubt that when we brought the companies under the one group, the airline benefited by way of resources and expertise," Mr Wild said in February. "This year we are very much aiming towards growing our staff numbers even more to meet the demand." A year ago, Skytrans agreed to sponsor the Cairns Taipans basketball team, giving the airline an even larger profile in the Far North. The sponsorship, believed to be in the six-figure a year range, was the biggest in Taipans' history. With the growth of the mining industry, there may be many more opportunities for Simon Wild's team to explore.





Co-director of Raging Thunder; Sole director of Might and Power Pty Ltd

OR more than 20 years, Fred Ariel has been one of the Far North's biggest players in local tourism. The Raging Thunder company, in which he has a 50 per cent stake, has been an innovator in developing rafting, sea kayaking and ballooning experiences. But Mr Ariel has other strings to his bow and has devoted time and energy into developing a water pipeline from PNG to Southern Queensland. Inspired by his many rafting trips in New Guinea, Mr Ariel founded Might and Power Pty Ltd, focused on developing a gravity-fed pipeline from PNG to the Maranoa farming districts in Queensland's south-west. With the water flowing downhill from the PNG highlands, he believes it would be a cheap and energy efficient source of water. Although there is still a long way to go, Mr Ariel has been a regular visitor to the PNG in the past two years, meeting government leaders. "I used to raft in PNG and there is rain all year round," he says. "That way it just makes sense." Although the pipeline would run some way inland, he sees Cairns as its logical operations base. Meanwhile Raging Thunder is set to upgrade its ferry services to Fitzroy Island, following the refurbishment of the island's "Hunt Resort". Raging Thunder still has tour concessions and some property interests on the picturesque island. Raging Thunder has chosen to do its own marketing, keeping itself distinct from regional tourism marketing groups. As such they have their own office in Sydney, where most backpackers fly to before heading North, and previously had an office in London.

Y HIS own admission, Lui Garozzo likes to keep a low profile. As co-owner of the Cairns Taipans, he tends to leave the public comments and media management to others. This is despite being a highly successful Far Northern businessman and it is in many ways thanks to him the Taipans are considered a title threat in the next few seasons. Mr Garozzo was one of the Cairns Taipans foundation shareholders eight years back, however the club has grown in strength since he and John O'Brien bought 50 per cent stakes four years back. The Taipans may not make make huge profits, but are now an integral part of Cairns' sporting and social fabric. "The Taipans are a very important part of Cairns and I see it as part of my contribution to society," he said recently. "I'm very competitive and although I'm not a basketballer, having a team here was an idea I liked." Outside the Taipans, Luis Garozzo runs a cold storage operation in Portsmith, a product marketing company called APMS and has family commercial property interests. He is optimistic about the Taipans and says he will be doing all he can to secure them the elusive NBL title. "It is a realistic goal but I'm not going to say we will win it because it's bloody hard," he said. "For me, it's all about morale and giving players the environment they need to excel."


LIVE Skarott may not be a household name like some of the other entries in this supplement. Given he is a responsible for running a multi-million dollar enterprise which is perhaps Cairns' biggest and most important piece of infrastructure (Cairns Airport), he more than deserves his position in our top 25. That's quite apart from his roles as chief executive and company secretary of the Electricity Credit Union, a successful business which started from humble beginnings way back in 1973. Mr Skarott was one of three co-founders of ECU Australia which now has assets of almost $200 million and lends about $160 million to 15,000 people across Queensland. For his efforts in growing ECU, Mr Skarott received the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his 35 years of service to the industry. The importance of the successful operation of Cairns Ports (formerly Cairns Port Authority) to the growth of Cairns cannot be understated. Even though it is government-owned, Cairns Ports provides the city's links to the world and as owner of the Cairns Airport, is responsible for ensuring the livelihood of a good percentage of Cairns businesses. There is some $200 million in redevelopment going on at the airport, and Mr Skarott has been influential in pushing the major upgrading. While the airport is in the throes of being sold, the river port will remain a big part of the Cairns business structure, possibly in an expanded way as the government conducts its statewide review of ports.

our most influential

our most influential




Chairman of Tourism Tropical North Queensland; Village Property Group chief executive


HENEVER major community issues bob up, Chamber of Commerce president Jeremy Blockey is quick to get involved. Mr Blockey has had a busy time since his election in March last year, with his term coinciding with the campaign for a new hospital, local government amalgamations and the Far North Queensland Regional Plan. Then there were the federal election-year debates on issues like upgrading the Bruce Highway, lobbying for a Cairns technical college and changes to industrial relations laws. He's also had to play the diplomat at a time when there was a change of government in Canberra and a change of mayor in Cairns. A successful businessman in his own right, Mr Blockey runs The 20/20 Group Australia marketing consultancy firm which deals with clients from major corporates to Cape York indigenous groups. In this role he's often seen in remote communities like Kowanyama, helping prepare business plans. He's also a director of economic development group Advance Cairns and Trinity Anglican School and has been a Chamber of Commerce committee member for five years. Unafraid of a stoush, he recently got under the Bligh Government's skin by calling them mischievous for linking the Cairns Airport sale to plans for a new hospital. Mr Blockey came to Australia as a British backpacker in the late 1980s after completing a Bachelor of Science (Economics) at Leicester University.



that earned the team their place in the Queensland Cup. He also was instrumental in setting up the new entity's board of directors. Given this experience it was hardly a surprise former mayor Kevin Byrne was so keen to draft him into the Unity team's election campaign. After the election loss, Mr Keeffe dusted himself off, figuratively, and focused his energies on other projects. A big focus for him this year is helping the Taipans secure an elusive NBL title, a goal which would have seemed impossible not long ago. "Our goal is to get a title here. We have very good structures here and fantastic support and it's getting very close to being our time, whether it's this year or the next few years," he said recently.





Owner of Unique People; President of Cairns Business Women's Club; Board member of Cairns Chamber of Commerce


CEO of Cairns Taipans; CEO Northern Pride Rugby League; CEO Events Cairns




Chairman of Cairns Chamber of Commerce; Co-owner and director of Advance Cairns; Director of Trinity Anglican School



FTER three decades in the tourism game, Stephen Olle has learned how to adapt. In his time working in the Cairns tourism industry, he's seen a raft of changes. The opening of Cairns International Airport, the pilots' strike, the growth in Japanese tourism and the move to internet booking and marketing to name just a few. As chairman of Tourism Tropical North Queensland, Mr Olle is at the forefront of helping local operators adapt to the changes. He sees the next big change as the growth in the Chinese market, reflected in TTNQ's role in organising charter aircraft between Cairns and mainland China earlier this year. Stephen Olle left cold, wet Melbourne for the warm, wet tropics way back in 1986, working first as general manager of the Mercure Hotel Harbourside and the Oasis Resort Cairns for 10 years. He's now chief executive of the Village Property Group which owns the business interests of the All Seasons Gateway Resort on Cairns' southside. Stephen Olle is proud of projects like the Great Tropical Drive and the "Change Your Latitude" campaign. He predicts more changes in what people expect in a holiday. Travel is a big part of the TTNQ role, and it is common to find him in major European or Asian capitals, pushing the region as a holiday spot. "We have to be ready to adapt at any time to keep ahead," he said. "What sets us apart as a region is our willingness to co-operate and work together to promote our destination."




President of Commerce Queensland; Managing director of Beatrice Booth Consulting; Board member of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Chair of Australian Chambers Alliance; Director of Queensland Apprenticeship Services and Qinserv Pty Lt

EATRICE Booth is used to firing off a shot or two. As president of the state's peak industry lobby organisation, Commerce Queensland, Ms Booth regularly puts a shot across the bows of governments and unions. Perhaps it is her background that has equipped her for such a front line position. Not only is Ms Booth a businesswoman with vast experience, she holds several unique places in Queensland's history. Ms Booth was the first woman to hold a shot firer's licence from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines as well as licences to sell and transport explosives. It was all part of her role as the former managing director of Cairns Engineering Testing Services, the biggest privately-owned geotechnical testing body in the state's north. As well as being the first woman to hold Commerce Queensland's top position after 139 years, Ms Booth last year became the first woman on the national board of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in its 150-year existence. It's a measure of her knowledge of all aspects of business ­ something she has built up over almost 30 years ­ that she heads up an organisation with thousands of members. From wage issues, to employment matters, industrial relations, business management, training, workplace health and safety, Ms Booth has to be across everything. Alongside her business, Ms Booth has had a 25-year association with the Cairns Show Society.

N UNSUCCESSFUL tilt at local government has hardly diminished Denis Keeffe's status in Cairns business circles. As chief executive of both Cairns Taipans and Events Cairns, as well as director of rugby league side Northern Pride, Mr Keeffe is one of the biggest organisers in Cairns sport. His work in Cairns followed a stint as North Queensland Cowboys chief executive in Townsville, a role he held until 2005. At the time, the Cowboys went from easybeats to one of the most respected clubs in the NRL. Getting the Northern Pride up and going was another feather in Denis Keeffe's hat. It was partially his effort in convincing senior rugby league figures that the Pride would not collapse like the Cairns Cyclones,

HELLEY Evans runs her own business, is an acclaimed keynote speaker, master coach and business trainer. Her management consultancy, Unique People, is about influencing how people perform in the business world. The nature of her business is to identify how people fit into the business world and make those relationships work ­ both for the company involved and for the individual. Hers is one of a growing number of businesses taking a holistic approach to operating in the corporate world where the needs of the individual are crucial to the business aims. Alongside her input into a growing number of Cairns businesses, Ms Evans has another role where her

influence is significant: as president of the Cairns Business Women's Club. With 480 members ­ a huge number for a business group in a regional city ­ the organisation has become a strong advocacy and lobbying group and a significant contributor to the Cairns economy. An audit last year found the club's members contributed $180 million a year to the Cairns economy through their businesses. Ten per cent of members own and operate milliondollar businesses while more than a quarter operate businesses where international trade is part of their work. Influencing this group is the leadership of Ms Evans who has taken it beyond networking to become a major contributor in the decisionmaking processes of Cairns business.



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