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Northern Australia is a region of rich promise, accessible resources and pristine environments and is Australia’s gateway to the markets and opportunities of Asia. The Office of Northern Australia is a conduit between all levels of government, industry and the people of northern Australia and provides advice and initiatives to drive economic growth and investment.

The north needs more and better infrastructure to grow the economy and connect businesses and communities. One major initiative under the White Paper to enhance growth and investment is the NAIF. The NAIF supports the Governments focus on high priority public infrastructure, while making private sector investment easier.

White Paper on Developing Northern Australia

From its base in Darwin, the Office of Northern Australia coordinates the implementation of the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia which sets outs key policies and initiatives to unlock the north’s vast potential.

The Australian Government’s future agenda for growth in the north also includes:

  • better use of land and water resources
  • a welcoming investment environment
  • improved governance and reduced regulatory burden
  • investment in infrastructure to lower costs for businesses and households
  • a skilled workforce that meets the growing needs of the north
  • enhanced air, land and sea transport links to, from and within the north.

Infrastructure achievements across northern Australia

  • Northern Australia Infrastructure Audit – This Infrastructure Australia report was released in January 2015 and assessed critical economic infrastructure gaps and requirements to meet projected northern Australia population and economic growth through to financial year 2031. The outcomes of this measure are informing the implementation of other White Paper measures including the NAIF, Northern Australia Roads Programme, Northern Australia Beef Roads Programme, Northern Australia Pipeline of Projects and the northern component of the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.
  • Roads are the lifeblood of the north — connecting communities and facilitating the movement of goods. At certain times of the year road transport is restricted by weather related events and capacity limitations. The Australian Government will provide $600 million in partnership with the states and territory for a Northern Australia Roads Package. The Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development announced a number of successful projects under the first tranche of this package. These include:
    • Around $140 million to upgrade Queensland roads (Flinders, Hann, Barkly and Capricorn Highways)
    • Around $90 million to upgrade Western Australian roads (Great Northern Highway and Marble Bar Road)
    • Around $130 million to upgrade Northern Territory Roads (Outback Way, Arnhem Highway and Keep River Plains Road).

The second tranche of this package was announced on 24 October 2016.

  • Improving Cattle Supply Chains – The $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads programme aims to improve the productivity and resilience of cattle supply chains in northern Australia. The Government undertook extensive consultation to ensure that the highest priority projects were identified. Three round table meetings with key industry and government stakeholders were held late 2015 and early 2016 in Rockhampton, Kununurra and Darwin. The Government announced investments to be made through the Northern Australia Beef Roads programme on 24 October 2016.
  • CSIRO was engaged to model the priorities identified through the consultation process with its state-of-the-art Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TraNSIT), in order to evaluate the merit of each of the proposed investments. Submissions are now being assessed with successful projects expected to be announced by the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development shortly.
  • Extension to the Remote Airstrip Upgrade programme – The limited ground transport options and vast distances in the north increase reliance on air transport for purposes as diverse as medical emergencies, cattle mustering and passenger and freight movement. The round three northern Australia projects under the Remote Airstrip Upgrade programme at Coen, Palm Island, Chillagoe, Bramwell Station and Yakanarra have been completed. Works at the other 17 aerodromes in northern Australia is underway and are due to be completed by 30 June 2017. Round four has been announced with applications closing on 21 October 2016. Further rounds will be announced mid-2017 to early-2018.
  • Northern development depends on water — reliable access to and effective management of water resources will be crucial to realise the full potential of the north. To facilitate improved access to water, the Government is funding water infrastructure feasibility studies through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, 15 studies are located in northern Australia. Additionally, three water resource assessments worth up to $15 million have been commissioned from the CSIRO to cover the Fitzroy River Basin (WA), Mitchell River Basin (QLD) and the Darwin region (NT). This work will address knowledge gaps and reduce uncertainty for investors, potentially reducing start-up costs and improving the investment attractiveness of new projects.