Brisbane is growing fast and so are its ambitions


Brisbane is growing faster than any other Australian city and in every way. Queensland’s population is expected to grow by more than 16 per cent by the time Brisbane hosts the Olympic Games in 2032, with most Queenslanders expected to live in Greater Brisbane by the time the torch is lit.

Brisbane is also the nation’s fastest-growing sustainable city, jumping six points to 71% in the 2022 Global Destination Sustainable (GDS) Index. Which is handy as the Brisbane Olympics are set to the first carbon positive in the Games history.

But what does this mean for event organisers. It means a lot more venue options all with a strong focus on sustainability.

Anthony Ryan, CEO of Brisbane Economic Development Agency (BEDA), says being part of the GDS-Index sets a high bar for Brisbane to be a global leader in sustainability.

“We want to be one of the most sustainable destinations in the world and since joining the index in 2019 we’ve continued to improve at a rapid pace,” Ryan says.

“We believe our improved ranking will help attract more people and business to Brisbane, whether that’s attracting eco-conscious travellers to event organisers and purpose-led investors.

“We see the greatest opportunity with our city’s suppliers and are keen to work with venues, hotels and restaurants to become local leaders in sustainability.”


Brisbane’s newest blockbuster development Queen’s Wharf is set to open later this year offering a huge array of stunning meetings spaces. These include The Star Ballroom with close to 2,000sqm of flexible space catering up 1,500 guests. Large outdoor events will make use of The Landing, an event space that integrates the resort, city and river with terraced seating down to the riverfront.

This mega development, which sits across more than 12 hectares of CBD land, also includes the four-and-a-half-star Dorsett hotel, the Australian debut of the six-star Rosewood and The Star Brisbane.

The scale of this development is unprecedented for Brisbane, but so is its sustainability approach, as it is the first in Brisbane to be awarded the 6-Star Green Star Communities rating in recognition of its social, environmental and economic sustainability designs.

Energy efficiencies, water conservation and waste reduction are part of the precinct’s DNA with plenty of cross ventilation, natural lighting and passive cooling techniques combined with renewable energy sources.

Artists impression of Queens Wharf.

Brisbane is already focusing on how it will achieve its Olympics climate positive pledge with the Brisbane Organising Committee forming a sustainability committee this year to turn good intentions into actions.

The city will not have to reinvent the wheel though with many pre-existing venues to be used during the Games, while others will be upgraded.

BEDA will also move ahead the rollout of a destination eco-certification program for the city with State Government funding support to work towards a globally recognised sustainability certification through EarthCheck for the city.

Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) is a leader in that respect having recently achieved Platinum certification from EarthCheck.

“BCEC’s EarthCheck Platinum Certification underpins and is confirmation of the Centre’s commitment to sustainability activity,” says BCEC general manager Kym Guesdon.

“The rigorous annual audit by EarthCheck, followed by the annual recertification is confirmation of our continuing adherence to the highest international standards of sustainability practices, and is the overarching way we package our environmental work to organisers.”

Guesdon also says that the Centre is an active community partner across the wider precinct.

“BCEC partners with the building owners, South Bank Corporation, and Business South Bank Association, on shared experiences and learnings with the ultimate aim of providing and developing tangible initiatives to contribute to precinct-wide increased sustainability outcomes,” she says.

BCEC works with many precinct partners on practical steps to boost sustainability.

“In partnership with South Bank Corporation we are also identifying future infrastructure projects for the Centre, including further installation of solar panels, waste management and renewable energy procurement.”

BCEC is also in the final stages of developing a Carbon Calculator which will quantify emissions from events and the Centre’s operations, as well as developing options for the offset of these emissions.

Tangalooma Island Resort has also celebrated its recent achievement of Gold Certification with Earthcheck, an achievement five years in the making.

“Whilst the Resort had been actively committed and engaged with sustainability initiatives for decades, we knew we could always do better,” says John Mouzourakis, the resort’s business development manager M.I.C.E.

While Mouzourakis is confident that hosting the 2032 Olympic Games will accelerate Brisbane’s commitment and leadership in the sustainability space, for the present it is event clients often leading the charge when it comes to pushing in new sustainability directions.

“More and more we are seeing our event clients demanding activities that ‘give back to the community’, and as such we have been able to create and facilitate some important environmental-protection initiatives  across the adjoining Gheebulum Coonungai (Moreton Island) National Park, and Moreton Bay Marine Park,” he says.

“Some of these projects have been erosion-control and tree planting initiatives, but the beach clean-ups are the most popular of these such activities we generally facilitate. The beaches of Moreton Island are susceptible to flotsam and debris generated from the Greater Brisbane area on the mainland.

Tangalooma recently achieved Gold Certification from EarthCheck.

“Whilst we have the capacity to clean up the general surrounds of the resort, and we facilitate and lead clean-ups across the island each year, it’s a terrific to get corporate teams educated and involved with these important environmental efforts. It makes such a positive impact on both the environment, as well as the delegates involved. It really is ‘win-win’.”

Howard Smith Wharves (HSW) was passionate about sustainability when it launched in 2018 with a raft of new venues on offer for event planners.

“It’s in our DNA so we’ve been implementing some really exciting, game changing initiatives to try and set a new benchmark in hospitality,’ says HSW founder and director Adam Flaskas.

“In March last year we achieved our target of diverting 95% of waste from landfill by segregating 17 different waste streams and composting around 800kg of waste every day. Our next goal is to achieve 97% diversion from landfill in the next three months.”

HSW also works alongside the Brisbane City Council to help achieve the city’s sustainability goals, in addition to supporting key local organisations who are doing some incredible work in the city such as the OzFish Moreton Bay Shellfish Reef Restoration project, New Farm Neighbourhood Centre and  Healthy Land and Water, who’ve been helping to keep the Brisbane River clean by removing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rubbish from the water since 1999.

Howard Smith Wharves has ambitious sustainability goals.

In the meantime a key focus for the precinct will be on converting food waste into energy.

“We’ll continue to work at it because we’ve got some even bigger sustainability goals as one day, we hope to be the most sustainable precinct on the planet,” says HSW CEO Luke Fraser.

Brisbane has set the bar very high in terms of its sustainability goals, but it can only be achieved by bringing everyone along for the ride. And that includes the many events, both large and small, that the city will be hosting over the coming years.

“We have bold ambitions and would love to see Brisbane rank [in the GDS index] among the top 30 cities in 2023,” says Ryan.