Media Release: Opportunities for developing Northern Australia

08 May 2015

Infrastructure Australia has completed the first ever audit of Northern Australia's infrastructure, identifying key challenges, and opportunities to support the region's projected growth over the next 15 years.

Following the release of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Audit Report today, Chairman, Mark Birrell said Northern Australia is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, a strong agricultural sector, and world-renowned tourism attractions.

“There is enormous potential to further capitalise on existing economic assets, and for the region to contribute even more to Australia's development,” Mr Birrell said.

Infrastructure Australia's audit was commissioned by the Australian Government and has identified the key challenges and critical infrastructure requirements for the region across the transport, water, energy and communications sectors through to 2031.

The audit report will inform the Australian Government's upcoming Northern Australia White Paper.

Key audit findings include that:

  • backlogs in maintaining existing assets must be a priority to fund and resolve
  • cost-benefit analysis is essential to evaluating and prioritising investment decisions
  • communities and the private sector need to drive decisions to ensure infrastructure meets the needs of users.

Mr Birrell said the audit highlights the importance of collaboration between governments and the private sector to achieve the best results in developing and maintaining infrastructure.

“Current evaluation processes and policies need to improve to ensure the region gets the best value for its infrastructure dollars,” Mr Birrell said.

The audit also found that maximising the efficiency of existing infrastructure will be critical to the development of Northern Australia, and in many cases will be of equal or greater importance than developing new infrastructure.

“There are gains to be made in addressing maintenance backlogs in the roads sector and introducing more cost-reflective pricing where possible, particularly in the water sector,” Mr Birrell said.

“By providing an evidence-based audit of Northern Australia's infrastructure, we hope governments will be better equipped over time to guide infrastructure planning and policy in this thriving region.”

The Northern Australian economy was worth $178 billion, or 11.7% of GDP, in 2012–13.

The Northern Australia Audit Report is available for download.