The series leader effectively lead the way throughout the half-hour session, his 1m13.688 coming in the first 10 minutes.
That was as fast as he went, however it proved good enough to hang on to top spot at the end.
Fellow Kiwi Andre Heimgartner went closest to knocking van Gisbergen off, his final run taking him within a tenth.
Scott Pye sat second for much of the session courtesy of a 1m13.892s before being bumped back to third by Heimgartner's late improvement.
Will Davison edged Dick Johnson Racing teammate Anton De Pasquale in fourth and fifth while Broc Feeney was a promising sixth.
David Reynolds was seventh despite complaining of a lack of balance in his Grove Racing Mustang while Todd Hazelwood recovered from a trip down the escape road to finish eighth fastest.
Tim Slade and Mark Winterbottom rounded out the Top 10.
James Golding, meanwhile, marked his return as a full-time driver with the 23rd best time, just over a second off the pace.
That was despite having never driven the PremiAir Racing Holden before the session.
"Back where I belong, that's what it feels like," he said.
"I'm just getting back in a rhythm, getting used to everything in the car. The good thing is the Team 18 cars are Triple Eight[-built] as well, so all the buttons are in the same spot.
"It's just about settling in and getting used to all of the processes again. But I'm feeling pretty comfortable."
Practice continues with a second half-hour sessions at 2:50pm local time.
Townsville 500 Practice 1 results
|1||97||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore ZB||1'13.6883|
|2||8||Andre Heimgartner||Holden Commodore ZB||1'13.7857||0.0974||0.0974|
|3||20||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore ZB||1'13.8927||0.2044||0.1070|
|4||17||Will Davison||Ford Mustang GT||1'13.9299||0.2416||0.0372|
|5||11||Anton De Pasquale||Ford Mustang GT||1'13.9332||0.2449||0.0033|
|6||88||Broc Feeney||Holden Commodore ZB||1'13.9542||0.2659||0.0210|
|7||26||David Reynolds||Ford Mustang GT||1'14.0289||0.3406||0.0747|
|8||35||Todd Hazelwood||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.0450||0.3567||0.0161|
|9||3||Tim Slade||Ford Mustang GT||1'14.0830||0.3947||0.0380|
|10||18||Mark Winterbottom||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.1035||0.4152||0.0205|
|11||25||Chaz Mostert||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.1398||0.4515||0.0363|
|12||9||Will Brown||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.1607||0.4724||0.0209|
|13||6||Cameron Waters||Ford Mustang GT||1'14.2071||0.5188||0.0464|
|14||34||Jack Le Brocq||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.2210||0.5327||0.0139|
|15||99||Brodie Kostecki||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.2806||0.5923||0.0596|
|16||56||Jake Kostecki||Ford Mustang GT||1'14.2866||0.5983||0.0060|
|17||55||Thomas Randle||Ford Mustang GT||1'14.4077||0.7194||0.1211|
|18||5||James Courtney||Ford Mustang GT||1'14.5128||0.8245||0.1051|
|19||10||Lee Holdsworth||Ford Mustang GT||1'14.6078||0.9195||0.0950|
|20||96||Macauley Jones||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.6450||0.9567||0.0372|
|21||2||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.7036||1.0153||0.0586|
|22||22||Chris Pither||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.7608||1.0725||0.0572|
|23||31||James Golding||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.7881||1.0998||0.0273|
|24||4||Jack Smith||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.8154||1.1271||0.0273|
|25||14||Bryce Fullwood||Holden Commodore ZB||1'14.9831||1.2948||0.1677|
|View full results|