Turbo-charging northern investment

NAIF changes aim to boost investment in northern Australia

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Northern Australia could be the economic powerhouse Australia needs in the wake of COVID-19. Photo: Port of Townsville.

Northern Australia could be the economic powerhouse Australia needs in the wake of COVID-19. Photo: Port of Townsville.

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A $5 billion investment program for northern Australia will be turbo-charged to enable more projects to go ahead.

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A $5 billion investment program for northern Australia will be turbo-charged to enable more projects to go ahead.

The Northern Australia Infrastrucutre Facility will be reformed, with details to be released in next week's federal budget outlining changes to provide more flexibility and widen the scope of projects eligible for funding.

Federal Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt Minister said northern Australia had a significant role to play in the country's economic comeback post COVID-19.

"The reforms to NAIF will ensure the $5 billion facility will have more flexibility to bankroll investment in a wider range of projects across northern Australia," Mr Pitt said.

"We have listened to stakeholders in the north, and are making changes to the NAIF, more flexibility will help drive economic recovery and population growth."

Northern Australia Assistant Minister Michelle Landry said the reforms came off the back of the NAIF statutory review that found while the NAIF is seen to be an important vehicle of investment in the north, more could be done.

"We are determined to open up further opportunities to strengthen northern Australia's contribution to our economy by continuing to support infrastructure and development," Ms Landry said.

"NAIF has already invested $2.4 billion in sectors including health, education, resources, energy and agriculture, supporting $4.4 billion in total project value and more than 7,200 jobs."

The federal government announced a five year extension to the NAIF in July, with operations to proceed until June 30, 2026.

The loan facility has received criticism over the last three years, with claims the program has not delivered the infrastructure outcomes for northern Australia it promised to deliver.

Labor Northern Australia spokesman Senator Murray Watt said while he welcomed the plan to 'overhaul' the NAIF, it was long overdue.

"The government's refusal to listen to Labor and fix its floundering fund means that investment in northern Australia is years behind where it should be," Mr Watt said.

He said only $169.2 million, or 3.4 per cent of the $5 billion budget had been released since it was announced five years ago, and Queensland had only received $1.7 million.

"Earlier this year the program had to be extended from its original five-year tenure, because at current spending rates it would take the NAIF 150 years to deliver what the Morrison Government has promised," Mr Watt said.

"The NAIF has been a great disappointment to many Australians in the north and has not delivered what was promised.

"Money must get out the door immediately so that it can start turbo-charging Northern Australia's recession recovery."

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