REPRESENTATIVES from six South Pacific nations, as well as Timor-Leste, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and France will gather in Cairns this week for the Queensland government’s first South Pacific Defence and Industry Forum.

Minister for state development Cameron Dick said attendees would join more than 100 industry representatives, and Commonwealth and state government personnel at the forum.

Countries represented include the Republic of Palau, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands, Republic of Marshall Islands, Timor-Leste, New Zealand, United Kingdom and France.

“Queensland is already kicking goals in the defence and aerospace industries, and we want to further build our maritime capability to create more jobs for Queenslanders, especially in the maritime industry and sustainment of vessels across the region,” Mr Dick said.

“HMAS Cairns is the homeport for nine Royal Australian Naval Vessels and its operations are supported by 900 Australian Navy and civilian personnel.

“We want to maximise Queensland’s geographically significant position in the Asia Pacific region.

“Far North Queensland has all the elements to become the port of choice to deliver services across the South Pacific and indeed the Asia-Pacific region.”

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Member for Cairns Michael Healy said Cairns had played a major role in the maintenance of vessels in the current Pacific Patrol Boat program, which has been running for 27 years.

“The estimated size of the maritime sustainment and operational market value for the Pacific Patrol Boat replacement fleet is $400m over the life of the project,” he said.

Member for Mulgrave, Curtis Pitt said Cairns’ local maritime industry was already a significant employer, supporting many Royal Australian Navy and Border Force vessels.

“Queensland has the leading naval and maritime capabilities Australia’s future needs, and with a significant presence already in the far north, this is a great opportunity to capitalise on future defence industry needs.”

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