Mackay turns it on for beef industry conference

The Northern Queensland city of Mackay recently played host to a major cattle industry conference and showed just how smaller, regional destinations go the extra mile to ensure their visitors receive the warmest of welcomes and VIP treatment.

This was the first time that the Australian Wagyu Association (AWA) had held its annual conference in Mackay and consequently, the local organising team set out to create a showcase of the destination for the 480 plus delegates. In addition to strong support from the Mackay Regional Council, which was one of the four official 2018 Conference partners, there was a high degree of local community engagement and interaction over all things Wagyu-related.

To celebrate the AWA national conference coming to Mackay, a special “Wagyu Week” was staged from 30 April to 6 May and featured a series of Wagyu-focused activities across the region.  A ‘pop-up’ local produce gift store was also installed at the conference venue, the Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre (MECC), and featured award-winning Sarina Sugar Shed products for sale to delegates, as ideal take-away mementos.

Regional restaurants became involved in “Wagyu Week” by showcasing Wagyu beef on their respective menus.   The Department of State Development coordinated a feature “Farm to Restaurant Dinner” at renowned Mackay CBD venue, BURP Restaurant. “Pop-up” lunch-time Wagyu cooking demonstrations were held at five regional locations and focused on how to cook Wagyu beef, with a competition staged to further engage the community and encourage attendance at the demonstrations.

On the final night of the conference, Mackay welcomed delegates into the city centre with live music, Taiko (Japanese Drummers), a screening of the Australian comedy movie, “The BBQ” (which features a Wagyu cattle property), and city centre dining.

The efforts of Mackay to impress delegates and visitors did not go unnoticed by the event organisers.

“For the Association, the annual conference is a highlight for the Wagyu industry and expectations are high,” said Dr Matt McDonagh, CEO of the Australian Wagyu Association.  “Mackay Regional Council and the MECC created a fantastic environment to celebrate Wagyu and are to be commended for providing us with high quality facilities and a supportive community.”

An Elite Wagyu Sale was also staged on one of the afternoons at the convention centre. Auctioneers called bids, with the venue’s high-speed uncontested broadband enabling live access for national and international bidders to participate in the event. Records were broken with $185,000 being bid for the top priced bull, and $80,000 for the top priced female in the sale.

The Mackay conference was timed to enable 200 delegates to take a two day post-conference tour through the Mackay Region, travelling on down to Rockhampton for the triennial Beef Australia Exposition and visiting a number of Wagyu breeding operations as well as regional attractions enroute.

Nicky Hansen, Sales & Business Development with the MECC noted that the Mackay Region continues to enjoy strong support from conference planners, who have identified the benefits of staging their conferences in supportive regional destinations.

“We see some great opportunities in attracting conferences which have relevance to our region,” she said. “The ‘2018 WagyuEdge - AWA Conference & Tour’ was a classic example of how our Council and agribusiness sector will go above and beyond to ensure an event held in our city is a great success.

She indicated the MECC would continue with its strategy to seek out conferences that are tailored to the Mackay Region local industry and business pillars, as well as the interests of the local community.



The MECC has multiple spaces including a 1090-seat auditorium and two plenary halls with capacity to seat 1500 delegates theatre-style or 800 guests banquet style. In addition, there are four meeting rooms, a 100-seat studio space, two foyers, and a selection of break-out rooms. The Convention Centre Precinct also includes the contemporary Artspace regional art gallery, expansive Civic Lawns and the Mackay City Library. All offer additional break-out meeting rooms and alternative function options.


The Mackay Region sits half way between Brisbane and Cairns in Queensland, offering a relaxed regional city, serviced by 65+ weekly flights. The 1000 seat MECC convention centre is enhanced by a portfolio of more than 1000 rooms within walking distance, along with amazing rooftop venues with panoramic views of the blue-water river and ocean.

The Mackay Region’s growth is fuelled by the mining industry in the Bowen Basin, resurgence in agribusiness, growth in tourism and an emerging marine sector. It is the largest sugar-producing area in Australia and nearly a third of Queensland’s export goods originate from the Mackay region.

For further information, contact:

Nicky Hansen
Sales & Business Development

Mackay Entertainment & Convention Centre
Phone: 07 4961 9761