IT'S a case of back to the future for Rockhampton.
According to respected national demographer Bernard Salt, the Beef Capital is set to return to the top 20 biggest cities in Australia by 2050.
Mr Salt said that in 1954, Rockhampton was the country's 13th largest city only to have fallen out of the rankings in the following decades.
But looking forward, he said it was northern resource cities, like Rockhampton, that would surge past southern agricultural cities.
"Rockhampton is now re-inventing itself as an entrepot or 'pivot' city between the Bowen Basin coal reserves and overseas markets," Mr Salt said in The Weekend Australian.
Mr Salt said the estimations were drawn from the Australian Bureau of Statistics population projections for the capitals and state-based projections adjusted to align with state growth assumptions.
Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carroll (pictured) said that the actual growth of the region was already higher than predicted.
"I believe the twin cities of the Capricorn Coast and Rockhampton by 2050 will be much larger than perhaps what is being predicted," she said.
"Central Queensland is the economic powerhouse of the state and nation... by 2050, I have absolutely no doubt that the Livingstone Shire will be branded the city of the Capricorn Coast and that along with Rockhampton, will be the twin cities to rival; not just in regional Queensland but regional Australia."
Ms Carroll reiterated previous statements that Rockhampton and Central Queensland's strength relied on the strong diversification of the regional economy.
She said planning was the key to ensuring the Rockhampton region could keep up with the projected growth.
"Planning is very important... planning partnerships and sustainable growth, and a balance between the environmental, social and economic pillars," she said.
"The other ingredient we need is strong leadership and strong partnerships, with that we can expedite the population projections."