Brisbane is spending over $8 billion to upgrade itself and promote itself into tourism's big league.
New Zealand is already one of the top markets in terms of visitors to Queensland's capital and it remains a favoured destination for Kiwis seeking a break from our cold and wet winters (choosebrisbane.com.au/brisbane-now).
Brisbane's balmy winter weather is always a major attraction for New Zealanders - and more of that later - but major projects will introduce a new era, transforming Brisbane into an events, arts and entertainment city to rival Sydney and Melbourne.
The projects include the $1.35bn second runway at Brisbane Airport, due for completion in three years; the $3bn Queen's Wharf development, due to be finished in five years and which includes a casino, five new hotels, ritzy retail stores, public space, residential towers and many food and beverage outlets.
The $2bn Brisbane Live project is Australia's answer to Madison Square Garden in New York - a 17,000-seat arena for superstar concerts and sports events; the $1bn Brisbane Metro is designed to ease CBD congestion with a 21-kilometre, 18-station system when it is completed, also in 2022.
The Port of Brisbane is planning a $100m cruise ship facility while the $800m Brisbane Quarter project is a whole city block with river views, encompassing Australia's first purpose-built W Hotel, two levels of riverside dining and shopping underneath a 40-storey office tower and an 82-storey residential apartment block. The $100m Howard Smith Wharves will be transformed into a boutique dining, conference and riverside precinct, designed to embrace the Brisbane climate.
Now, about that climate...Brisbane Marketing Tourism & Major Events General Manager, Anne-Maree Moon, says it is still one of Brisbane's major winter drawcards for Kiwis.
Queensland enjoyed a 10 per cent increase in total international visitor numbers to record levels and Brisbane a 6 per cent rise, with 169,000 Kiwis visiting the city. Kiwis spent a record A$600m across Queensland last year.
Moon says the city developments will make Brisbane even more attractive to New Zealanders, targeted as one of the city's biggest markets. She says Brisbane's existing assets clearly point to the city's future evolution.
"Brisbane delivers a year-round programme of major events and cultural highlights also already becoming a city of the arts around the jewel of the Brisbane River," she says. "This winter alone, arts lovers can take in two programmes from the Royal Ballet, in Australia for the first time in 15 years, with Woolf Works (from June 29-July 2) and The Winter's Tale (July 5-9)."
The city is also hosting two significant exhibitions: Marvel: Creating The Cinematic Universe, the story of classic Marvel comics heroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye and their journey from comic to cinema screen From May 27 to September 3 at GOMA.
The other deals with real-life gladiators, with Queensland Museum premiering Gladiators: Heroes Of The Colosseum with artefacts plus games and displays revealing the lives - and deaths - of the famed warriors who fought for the pleasure of the ancient Roman crowds.
New Zealanders are also keen to learn more about a popular trend: rooftop bars in Brisbane. Searches for rooftop bars are currently the second highest concerning a specific attraction, behind only a perennial favourite of Kiwis: wildlife parks near Brisbane.
The rooftop phenomenon has gone round the world and Brisbane, with that warm winter weather (upper temperatures of 21C during the day, 26C at the time of writing), is a perfect spot for rooftop bars like Eleven, Elixir, Stock Exchange, Eagles Nest, Sazerac, Lennons Pool Bar and Sixteen Antlers, to name only a few. For more rooftop bars click here.
"I think the interest in rooftop bars shows that Kiwis already know about the rise in Brisbane's sophistication as a food and beverage destination," says Moon, "and are searching for things they can't do at home in winter.
"The development happening in Brisbane over the next 3-5 years will only strengthen the emergence of the city as a compelling leisure destination."
Other Brisbane winter events include:
• Queensland Cabaret Festival, June 1-15 - a musical celebration of cabaret performances in three Brisbane venues.
• Battle of Brisbane, Manny Pacquiao v Jeff Horn, July 2 - Australia's Horn tries to become the country's first world welterweight boxing champion with 52,000 people expected at Suncorp Stadium
• Queensland Music Festival July 7-30 -a mammoth music festival with its heart in Brisbane.
• Bledisloe Cup - Qantas Wallabies v New Zealand All Blacks, Suncorp Stadium, October 21.