Abbott to announce boost for the north

Tony Abbott: ‘We can encourage jobs and tackle the costs of living far away from major cities’. AAP/Lukas Coch

A 20-year roadmap to boost northern Australia’s development and investment will be unveiled by Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday.

The white paper covers measures to simplify land arrangements to encourage investment, develop water resources and promote the north as a business.

There are also plans for a trade and investment gateway, greater investment in infrastructure, and measures to reduce barriers to employment and improve governance.

“We will drive down the costs of operating in the north for business, making it a more attractive place to invest and work,” Abbott said.

“By making the right regulations and infrastructure investments, we can encourage jobs and tackle the costs of living far away from major cities.”

The government will put extra funds into reducing a backlog of native title claims, with the aim of clearing it in a decade.

It will pursue simpler, more secure land arrangements. There will also be backing for pilot reforms in land tenure.

Initiatives in water include a A$200 million water infrastructure development fund; a feasibility analysis for the Nullinga Dam near Cairns, a detailed examination of land use sustainability for stage three of the Ord, and funding for water assessments for the Mitchell river in Queensland, West Kimberley in Western Australia and the Darwin region. There will be a $600 million roads package to improve key roads

A northern investment forum will be held in Darwin later this year to bring together international investors. Business, education and industry links to the Indo-Pacific region will be fostered.

The government also plans to establish a $75 million Co-operative Research Centre on Developing Northern Australia. Business will be given help to enter new markets through greater access to the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Program.

Already announced have been a $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, providing concessional loans for projects; the $100 million beef roads fund to help improve cattle supply chains, and an upgrade for airstrips.