The new "economic roadmap" for the Northern Territory wants to accelerate job creation projects with an emphasis on a potential onshore gas industry.
The Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission has released its First Report to the Chief Minister, setting out immediate priorities to capitalise on the Territory's competitive advantages, attract more private investment and create more local jobs.
The Chief Minister established the Commission as a 'team of champions' to help the Northern Territory emerge from the coronavirus crisis as Australia's comeback capital.
The Commission's First Report contains 15 immediate recommendations to help attract and secure investment, make it easier to do business, and back locals.
The report says the foundations which underpinned the Territory's growth over the past 20 years, from a $14 billion economy to a $26 billion economy, with a 25% increase in population and a 40% increase in the workforce, remain.
The report highlights "world-class mineral deposits, including critical minerals necessary for modern life, access to water, a strategic location for defence, a quality solar resource spread across a wide area, a strong agricultural sector, highly prospective world scale onshore gas resources and proven offshore gas reserves, and proximity to markets in South East Asia".
There is a lot of optimism about the prospects of an on-shore gas industry.
"The Beetaloo Sub-basin shows significant potential to provide gas and liquids for energy use and to underpin a petrochemical manufacturing industry in the Territory - driving significant economic benefit. This potential benefit is nationally recognised but requires additional appraisal to further define the resource and potential development pathways," the report says.
"The commission notes the work underway in relation to the assessment of and planning for infrastructure to service the potential development of the Beetaloo Sub-basin.
"The Commission recommends that the Territory Government, in conjunction with the Australian Government, accelerates the preliminary design and development assessments for critical enabling infrastructure to support development of the Beetaloo Sub-basin in the event commercial feasibility is proven."
There is nothing specific in the report for Katherine although the commission said it "noted" the government's work on the Katherine Agribusiness and Logistics Hub.
It also considered more spending at Nitmiluk and other national parks would help drive up tourist numbers.
The Government has accepted all 15 recommendations and will start action on them immediately - noting several of the initiatives are well underway.
The Chief Minister has today written to all Department CEOs to prioritise this work for immediate action - especially the recommendations covering the regulatory approvals processes.
The Chief Minister has requested the regulatory approvals work be ready for the next incoming government to implement in September.
The Commission recommends the Territory Government focus on growing five main sectors:
- energy (renewables and gas);
- manufacturing (gas and non-gas);
- resources; and
The Commission and Team Territory will provide additional recommendations in a Final Report to be delivered in November 2020.
The Commission will continue to work with the Regional Reconstruction committees, and the Minister for Central Australian Reconstruction, as it prepares its final report.
The public submission process to the Commission has so far yielded around 40 submissions.
Further feedback from industry and advocacy groups, businesses and the general public is welcome, with submissions closing at midnight on July 24.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said: "The coronavirus crisis has hit every corner of the country and every part of the economy, and the Territory is not immune.
"But being the safest in Australia has put us in prime position to have the strongest comeback in Australia.
"I am determined to turn this once-in-century crisis into a once-in-a-century opportunity for the Territory. We will make the Territory Australia's comeback capital.
"We have the thrown the kitchen sink at saving as many jobs as possible during this crisis. And our road to recovery depends on creating more jobs for Territorians.
"The Commission wants the Territory to be the easiest place in Australia to do business and I agree. I have accepted all of their recommendations and the work on them starts right now.
"This is just the start, but it's a great start. Andrew, Paul and the team are doing terrific work on behalf of all Territorians."
Territory Reconstruction Commission co-chair Andrew Liveris said: "This First Report is a roadmap to making the Territory the easiest place in the country to do business and leverages the Territory's strategic and natural advantages.
"The recommendations are about attracting private investment, which will lead to a stronger, more diverse economy, more jobs and ultimately more people calling the Territory home.
"The first report to the Chief Minister establishes the immediate sectors that have the greatest promise to grow the NT economy over the next decade.
"A strong focus on including all Territorians in this growth is essential, especially Indigenous Australians. I am confident that we are on the path to stabilise the economy and then grow it. Several near ready projects have also been identified.
"We also believe that economically advantaged renewables, gas, minerals, and agricultural sectors, especially with proximity to the markets of South East and East Asia, will attract foreign and domestic enterprises to invest in the Territory."
Territory Reconstruction Commission co-chair Paul Henderson said: "The Territory can lead the country in creating a manufacturing hub in Darwin that unlocks the Territory's abundant resources potential and utilises its proximity to expansive and growing Asian markets for export.
"Energy as supplied by renewables and gas for domestic, industry and export use is one of the key underpinning requirements for economic growth in the Territory."