The Australian Government has appointed a new Chief Executive Officer for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, announced Ms Laurie Walker as the new CEO.

“Ms Laurie Walker is a senior executive with key leadership experience in banking and finance organisations including ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank,” Mr Canavan said.

“She has a deep understanding of specialised lending and has a full range of experience including identifying investment opportunities, negotiation, completing due diligence and closing the deal.

“Ms Walker understands the challenges facing infrastructure investment and is committed to supporting economic growth across northern Australia. She will be based at the NAIF headquarters in Cairns but will work with stakeholders across the region.

Mr Canavan said the Australian Government’s $5 billion investment in the NAIF was a game-changer and would be a catalyst for new job creation and investment in the region.

“So far, the NAIF has received more than 70 enquiries about project funding.  One project is undertaking due diligence and another 13 are working towards a formal investment proposal. These projects represent a total investment of over $10 billion.

“Not all will receive assistance, so I encourage others to bring forward their ideas for vital Northern Australia infrastructure projects.”

Mr Canavan said, “Already we have delivered 21 different measures to energise development of the north laid out in the Developing Northern Australia White Paper.

“This includes upgrading road, rail and remote airstrips and the expansion of business services, like the $13.6 million Northern Australia Tourism Initiative and the opening of a Major Projects Approval Agency office in Darwin.

“We have announced almost $500 million in investments to upgrade strategic road infrastructure, including sealing the Hann Highway, a critical part of the inland route from Cairns to Melbourne which provides an important alternative to the Bruce Highway, and further upgrading the Outback Way east west route.”

In addition to the $1 billion committed to Great Barrier Reef protection, the Australian Government has also announced over $920 million in additional funding for projects and investments across northern Australia that further build on the White Paper.

Mr Canavan said, “While northern Australia is only 40 per cent of our landmass, it receives 60 per cent of national rainfall.

“The sheer volume of water in the north creates opportunities for growth in a challenging landscape, so we are progressing dam construction and 15 water feasibility evaluations across the region.”

Mr Canavan said the Government was spending $12.4 million on boosting biosecurity work across the region with 17 new Indigenous Ranger groups joining 40 existing groups.

“The north already punches above its economic weight, contributing almost 12 per cent of GDP, despite having only 5.5 per cent of the nation’s population.

“Our long-term vision and investments in the region will underwrite further economic growth to drive jobs, investment and expansion in the north, with flow on benefits to our national economy.”

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