Cassowary Coast Regional Council was formed in 2008 by the amalgamation of Cardwell and Johnstone Shires. It has an area of 4701 sq km. Its northern boundary is about 8 km north of Innisfail and its southern boundary is an irregular line inland from the south of Hinchinbrook Island.
The flightless endemic cassowary casuarius stands about 1.5 to 2 metres high and is found in the tropical scrubs, particularly in the vicinity of Cardwell. Although a shy bird, the cassowary has powerful legs that can inflict death. It is also a strong runner and swimmer.
The Regional Council's northern part was the former Johnstone Shire (1639 sq km), about one-third of its area. Cardwell Shire had an area of 3062 sq km. The east-west boundary between the shires was between Mission Beach and Wongaling Beach. Although the smaller of the two, Johnstone Shire's population of 18,256 (2006) contributed two-thirds of the Regional Council's population. Innisfail, with 8262 people, accounted for 45% of that contribution.
Cardwell Shire had the next two largest towns, Tully (2457 people) and Cardwell (1250), but lacked the numerous small and medium size rural towns found in Johnstone Shire. Much of the former Cardwell Shire is national park, the home of the cassowary. It also included Hinchinbrook Island.
Cassowary Coast Regional Council is linked north to south by the Bruce Highway and the North Coast railway, the latter completed in stages between 1922 and 1924. Several timber and sugar towns grew along the railway, aided by soldier settlement after World War I. After World War II coastal towns developed. Dunk Island, with its resident author, E.J. Banfield, had put the area on the imaginative map, and Wongaling Beach and Mission Beach are a short way north.
In the former Cardwell Shire, employment in horticulture, crops and sugar accounted for 23.5% of the working population in 2006. The proportion in Johnstone Shire was 13.5%.
As Innisfail and Cardwell are toward the north and south extremities of the regional council's area, the municipal offices are in the more central Tully.
On 3 February 2011, the Category 5 Cyclone Yasi crossed the Queensland coast, centred on the area of Mission Beach and Cardwell which approximates the middle of the Regional Council’s coastline. The effects of the cyclone were damaging as far away as Cairns and Townsville. All of the Council’s coastal towns, from Innisfail to Ingham were damaged; Cardwell, Mission Beach and Tully were very severely damaged.
After the cyclone supplies of fresh water had to be brought in to all of the Council’s above mentioned towns, together with El Arish and Silkwood. Six hundred Army personnel plus SES (State Emergency Services) volunteers were brought in on the day of the cyclone to help with the clean-up. Within six weeks there was 150,000 cubic metres of compacted mulch generated from felled trees and vegetation. Habitat and food for the endangered cassowary and mahogany glider were in short supply after Yasi, and food drops and feeding stations were provided.
The census population of Cassowary Coast Regional Council is 27,515 (2006).
Cardwell Shire and Johnstone Shire entries