Government’s looking to the north


Government’s looking to the north

Posted on Friday, June 19 2015 at 4:40 PM

The Australian Government yesterday released its White Paper on Developing Northern Australia: Our North, Our Future, the country’s first White Paper on developing northern Australia, describing it as “an essential part of our plan for a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia”.

With a land mass covering more than three million
square kilometres and a population of more than one million people, the north
has been largely ignored in the past, despite being home to some of Australia’s
most treasured icons, such as the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and Kakadu.

The paper sets out a long-term reform agenda up to
2035, delivering an initial investment of $1.2 billion (in addition to the $5
billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility).

Measures to unlock the north’s potential across six
key areas include: simpler land arrangements to support investment; developing
the north’s water resources; growing the north as a business, trade and
investment gateway; investing in infrastructure to lower business and household
costs; reducing barriers to employing people; and improving governance.

The government says it is supporting simpler and
more secure land arrangements in the north, by investing:

  • $20.4 million to support native title bodies to
    realise their potential and negotiate more efficiently with business;
  • $17 million to support secure property rights for
    cadastral surveys, area mapping and township leases;
  • $10.6 million for pilot land tenure reforms to
    help fund ‘next steps’ for projects that demonstrate the benefits of tenure
    reform, particularly on pastoral leases.

It will also work with the Council of Australian Governments
(COAG) to:

  • reduce native title costs and delays – the
    Government wants all existing native title claims settled in the next 10 years;
  • allow Indigenous Australians to borrow against or
    lease out exclusive native title land.

A $200 million Water Infrastructure Development
Fund is set to be established, which will provide up to $5 million for a
feasibility analysis for the Nullinga Dam near Cairns, and up to $5 million for
a detailed examination of land-use suitability for Ord Stage 3.

In order to help attract more investors to the
north, the government plans to:

  • host a major northern investment forum in Darwin
    in late 2015 to bring together international investors, supported by the new
    investment prospectus: “Northern Australia emerging opportunities in an
    advanced economy”
  • set up a new $75 million Cooperative Research
    Centre on Developing Northern Australia;
  • invest $15.3 million to position the north as a
    global leader in tropical health;
  • provide $12.4 million for Indigenous Ranger
    groups to expand biosecurity surveillance;
  • help business enter new markets and supply chains
    by increasing access to the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme and
    Industry Skills Fund.

The government also says it will focus on funding
high priority infrastructure through a $5 billion Northern Australia
Infrastructure Facility; a new $600 million roads package; and a $100 million
beef roads fund, which will help improve cattle supply chains. Plans are also
afoot to invest $5 million in rail freight analyses, starting with a
pre-feasibility analyses of the Mount Isa to Tennant Creek railway and an
upgrade of the Townsville to Mount Isa line.

The Northern Australia Strategic Partnership — the
biannual gathering of First Ministers from the Commonwealth and northern
jurisdictions — will also be made permanent.


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