He was born in Lae, Papua New Guinea 1949. His family had first arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1906 when his grandfather was appointed Chief Collector of Customs in Port Moresby. His primary education was on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Attended Nudgee College, Brisbane 1963-67.
He graduated in 1969 from Officer Cadet School, Portsea, Victoria (OCS Portsea) with an Australian Army commission. He was awarded the Sword of Honour for Leadership in that year. His 17-year military career included Australian and overseas postings to Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Rhodesia and South Vietnam. His final military assignment was as a Senior Instructor at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, 1987.
Regional Manager Office of Northern and Regional Development, Cairns 1987-90.
In 1990 became regional manager of the Queensland Confederation of Industry.
Administrative Director for an oil spill cleanup operation, funded by the World Bank and European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, in the Kolva Basin, in the Komi Republic, part of the Russian Federation[when?]. The Pechora River tributaries were remediated and 146,000 tonnes of oil were recovered.
Chief Executive of the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority December 1995. Member of the national negotiating team for bilateral air service agreements[when?]; Acting Chairman of the National Airline Commission for two years[when?]; Deputy Chairman of AIR NIUGINI for eighteen months[when?]; National Delegate to the APEC Working Groups on Tourism and Trade[when?].
Returned to Cairns December 1999 ; re-elected as Mayor of Cairns on 25 March 2000 and again in March 2004.
He was the subject of media attention and controversy for involvement with property developers, attitudes towards racial issues and his approach to government and the electorate. Examples include:-
- Allegations of racism. An aborted attempt by the Byrne Council to secretly bus indigenous people from the Cairns region to the remote Lockhart River region.
- Allegations (and subsequent referral to the Crime and Misconduct Commission) by a local ratepayers group that he contravened electoral and ethical policies by maintaining an undeclared involvement in other primary businesses during his mayoralty.
- A self-acknowledged perception that he was 'in the developers pockets', ultimately attributed by him as the reason for his defeat in 2008. Three months later he accepted employment as a senior director with a Cairns property developer. Tragically, the managing director of the company was later murdered and the company went into receivership.
- An investigation of Lady Mayoress Amanda Byrne for ethical misconduct under the terms of the Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act 2000 (PAMD Act). She was ultimately found guilty of charges by the office of fair trading and, in a move unprecedented in Queensland, she was banned for life from practising as an accommodation manager.
- That advice from peak industry environmental body Geoscience Australia that warned of a serious disaster risk in approving new development on the Cairns slopes and some low-lying areas was set-aside in favour of more favourable reports from the Councils own engineers.
- "Mayors of Cairns".
- "Cairns mayor Kevin Byrne beaten in upset by Val Schier". The Courier-Mail. 16 March 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
- "Rum, seduction and death: 'aboriginality' and alcohol". March 1993. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Anti Discrimination Chief Considers Full Probe". 1 June 1994. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Time to take off the blinkers on housing". January 2000. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
- "Mayor in Watchdog Scrutiny". 11 March 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Byrne Shattered". 17 March 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Kevin Byrne's New Job". 25 June 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Kevin Byrne Associate Found Murdered". 6 May 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Shaquil Haque kept low profile". 7 May 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Property Developer in the Hands of Receivers". 6 May 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Letting Agent Banned for Life". 17 March 2007. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Boom in Rental Complaints". 6 July 2005. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Scientists Consider Impact of Increased Cyclone Activity". 21 August 2006. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
- "Search Australian Honours - Simple Search". 1 January 2001. Retrieved 30 March 2012.