A POTENTIAL rail link between existing infrastructure and RAAF Base Tindal could give Katherine the edge needed to be viewed as the Northern Territory’s transport heart, according to Transport Minister Peter Chandler.
The Defence White Paper outlines $20 billion in federal government spending on infrastructure over the next two decades, including a potential link to the base from existing rail network “to support the transporting and handling of explosive ordnance and bulk fuel”.
Mr Chandler said that, if the rail link became a reality with other projects planned for the town – including an intermodal freight hub and heavy vehicle alternate route – it would cement Katherine’s importance to transport in the Territory.
He added that he believed the Defence White Paper would provide “ongoing certainty for business” for the next 20 years in Katherine.
“The commitment in the white paper is a bit of a game changer, particularly for towns like Katherine,” he said.
“$20b over 20 years … that’s like the majority of our infrastructure budget just on defence throughout the Territory.
“That’s ongoing certainty for business for the next two decades.”
Katherine Town Council mayor Fay Miller echoed Mr Chandler’s sentiment and said the town would play a vital role in the development of northern Australia.
“Katherine has a key role … considering its location as a crossroads on national highways servicing north, west and south,” she said.
An intermodal freight hub has been on the agenda in Katherine for several years and Mr Chandler said the mooted rail link between the town and Kununurra, and the transport investment proposed in the Defence White Paper meant it needed to go ahead.
Transport department relocation has ‘some merit’
When asked whether the NT government would consider moving the Department of Transport to Katherine if the proposed developments came to fruition, Mr Chandler said the idea had “some merit”.
“Interesting idea,” he said.
“I’ll talk to [Department of Transport acting chief executive officer Andrew Kirkman] about that.
“I won’t rule anything out, it’s got some merit.
“You’ve got remember that a lot of the roads we will be investing in, Katherine’s really central to a lot of that, with what will eventually happen through Arnhem Land out to Nhulunbuy.
“The next 20 years in this place is going to be different, so different.”