THE Mackay region and its people are this year celebrating and reflecting upon 150 years of a rich and colourful history.
The history of Mackay in many respects is also about the history of the sugar industry.
The Mackay sugar industry is, in fact, the second oldest industry still operating in the region.
In recent years the industry has become overshadowed by the mining and resources sector, and sometimes is perhaps the "forgotten" industry.
It is timely during the 150th celebration of Mackay that we reflect upon the importance of sugar to the region.
Sugar cane was first commercially planted in the 1870s in this region. From very humble beginnings the sugar industry has grown into the largest cane-growing region in Australia.
The Mackay and Proserpine regions in good seasons can account for almost 25-30% of Australia's sugar production, which is more than 30 million tonnes of cane.
The success of the sugar industry in Mackay has been to a large degree due to the support of the people of Mackay.
I am often very humbled by the strong level of support and affection that so many in Mackay convey to me about the local sugar industry.
This support is very encouraging.
Mackay was built on the back of the spirit of the early pioneers. Sugar also has an impressive history of people and pioneers from foreign lands forging the development of the sugar industry.
The European influence, including Maltese, Italian, Sicilian, Scottish, Irish and English sugar pioneers played a huge role in the growth of sugar and the Mackay region.
Sugar has been around for 145 years and we like to think we will be around for another 150 years and continue to be an important part of the social and economic landscape of Mackay.