On The Land

15 October, 2023

Grant for farm accommodation to benefit workers

North Queensland banana, sugar cane and cattle operation, Mackays,  was named as one of 24 successful businesses to receive a Rural Economic Development (RED) grant under round five of the Queensland Government’s successful program.

Grant for farm accommodation to benefit workers - feature photo

The fourth-generation family business with farms at Lakeland and Tully will use the RED grant to build accommodation for up to 50 workers to expand into a range of new crops including avocados, cowpeas and irrigated cotton.

This will create up to 20 new local jobs.

Mackays is installing 17 self-contained transportable buildings at its Lakeland property to help remove the risk of production interruptions due to labour and accommodation shortages.

Construction is expected to be completed by next year.

Mackays chief executive officer Alex Hutton said the on-farm accommodation was necessary to provide the existing and expanding workforce a reliable form of accommodation and will be a critical component in facilitating the farm’s expansion and achieving its future productive capability.

“This will assist in employee attraction and retention and streamline on and off-farm supporting operations for the business,” Mr Hutton said.

“The project directly facilitates the creation of new roles of varying skill sets including general farm labour roles, agronomists, fuel, chemical and nutrient suppliers, aerial operators, and consultants, in addition to those roles required to manage the accommodation precinct, such as site manager and cleaners.”

Mackays are totally committed to sustainable farming practices, working with nature to protect the environment whenever possible, optimising nutrition and plant health.

With a 75-year-old history of family farming, they are Australia’s leading banana grower and are the largest producer of bananas in Australia, priding themselves on delivering a consistently high quality product and service year round, to both local retailers and customers as well as major supermarkets throughout Australia.

Responsive to consumer preferences, they developed the Smart Banana, which has an optimum sweetness and size, ripening in individual packaging and with a smaller footprint than that of other suppliers.

The bananas grown at Lakeland Downs mitigate the biosecurity risks and extreme weather events which coastal tropics sometimes experience and are prone to. 

From the first harvest in the mid-eighties, fifty years after founder Stan Mackay arrived in Tully, Mackays is now one of the largest suppliers of sugar cane to the Tully Mill, while their southern cane is assigned to the Bundaberg mill.

With the purchase of prime grazing land in the Tully Valley in 1991, what began as a semi-commercial hobby of some of the Mackay family members has evolved into a strong entity, spanning an area of 400 hectares with an industry recognised herd of approximately 800 selectively bred beef cattle.

Overall, the fifth round of the RED grants program has provided $3.9 million in funding and is expected to create up to 215 direct, long-term jobs.

Over five years, the Palaszczuk Government’s RED grants program has provided a total of $13.3 million in funding to support 59 successful regional agribusiness projects, worth more than $52.4 million and estimated to create over 2,500 new direct and indirect jobs.

A sixth round of RED grants, supporting Indigenous-owned agribusinesses and projects aimed at low-emissions agriculture has been allocated for the 2023-24 financial year with applications to open later this year.

Grants are available for up to $200,000 with a 50% cash contribution requirement from applicants to fund projects which generate economic and employment opportunities related to primary production value chains across rural and remote Queensland.

The Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) administers the RED grant scheme on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. For further information visit


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