Using transport to drive economic growth

The Northern Territory Government has released major plans for its road network, aviation sector and regional transport industries, to help drive economic growth and connect people from across the state.

shutterstock_309650825The Northern Territory Government handles 22,000km of road, more than 220 bridges and 260km of shared pathways across the territory, which not only support residents but help facilitate the growth of economic markets.

In order to maintain and grow opportunities in resources, agriculture, tourism and other trades, the territory needs a reliable transport network that connects to regional areas, which is why the Northern Territory Government has created three new transport strategies outlining a vision for the next four years.

The transport infrastructure strategies are:

  • Roads and Bridges Strategy and Network Investment Plan
  • Aviation Industry and Services Strategy 2020
  • Darwin Regional Transport Plan 2016

The Roads and Bridges Strategy details major projects that will improve the territory’s road network and freight routes in the short and long term; the Regional Transport plan focuses on how land use plays a role in the future of public transport, roads and active-living in Darwin; and the Aviation Strategy explores the role of airports and air services in the territory’s tourism and resource industries.

The Territory’s transport backbone

Roads and bridges are the largest component of the Northern Territory’s transport infrastructure and they play a key role in the territory’s economic development because it’s the most common way for industries to transport goods.

Given the Northern Territory is also the closest territory to Asian markets, the road network is an important part of the logistics supply chain to transport goods from Asia to around Australia.

The Northern Territory also has some of the most remote towns in Australia, making the road network a significant link from regional communities to big cities.

The Roads and Bridges Strategy and Network Investment Plan has been created based on the results of the Regional Infrastructure Study which was undertaken in 2014 and 2015 to identify priority infrastructure investments.

The projects outlined in this strategy are divided into five regions: Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and East Arnhem.

In Darwin, major projects identified as priorities include road duplications, intersection works, road strengthening and widening, and the construction of new infrastructure.

Some of the short term works (within the next five years) will occur on the Arnhem Highway, the Arnhem Link Road and Berrimah Road, while longer term plans include formation and seal widening on Kakadu Highway, and the construction of new links from Noonamah to Tiger Brennan Drive, and the North-South Arterial.

In Alice Springs, planned projects include urban growth projects, pavement widening and strengthening, and new infrastructure. Upgrades to Larapinta Drive, Outback Way and Maryvale Road will occur within the next five years, while new links from Derry Downs to Ammaroo, and from Wingellina to Curtain Springs, are planned over the next ten years.

Major projects for the Katherine region will focus on roads associated with the Ord development area including Roper Highway, and works to the Victoria Highway, Buntine Highway and Buchannan Highway in the Victorian River area.

The focus of the Tennant Creek region will be major cattle transport routes, including the Barkly Highway, Tablelands Highway and the Barkly stock route, while the aim for the East Arnhem region is to improve safety as the road standards in this region are generally lower than other areas.

shutterstock_444904105An aviation gateway

The Northern Territory is set to become an aviation gateway for Northern Australia, as it has strong economic potential due to its proximity to Asia, and strong energy, defence and agriculture industries.

The Aviation Industry and Services Strategy 2020 outlines four main goals for the sector:

  • The growth of international and domestic services
  • Use the development of the aviation sector to drive economic growth in the territory
  • Maintain or upgrade airport infrastructure to ensure it can support future development
  • Create policies and regulations that support the territory’s aviation growth

The strategy proposes that to grow aviation services in the Northern Territory, the territory has to not only increase current services, but also pursue new markets such as China and New Zealand, as well as trial new domestic services including to Katherine and Tennant Creek.

Methods to use the Northern Territory’s planes and airports to drive economic growth include exploring ways to maximise air freight capacity and infrastructure such as a possible cold storage facility at Darwin International Airport as well as expanding current aviation businesses including ones relating to defence.

Improving airport infrastructure is also a key component for future growth and this strategy proposes that Northern Territory airports should remain open for business 24/7, the government should support the National Airports Safeguarding Framework, planning needs to be undertaken for future development of regional airports including Batchelor Airport, and remote aerodrome owners need to have increased support.

In order for the Northern Territory’s aviation sector to grow, this strategy also outlines that the government should consider reducing the cost of security and processing that is placed on passengers, provide emergency rescue services at Katherine Tindal Airport, which will allow it to operate as an alternate runway for Darwin International Airport, and create new policies and regulations that will support the industry moving forward.

Connecting remote communities

Given roads and aviation are explored in detail in separate strategies, the Darwin Regional Transport Plan 2016 focuses solely on the Darwin region and how the government can integrate transport with land use to improve facilities for public transport, roads, cycling and walking.

With Darwin’s growing population and increased infrastructure development challenges around congestion, freight demand, sustainability, safety, land use and the wellbeing of residents can occur.

This transport plan takes into account these challenges and explores future changes to Darwin’s transport use, such as a potential decline in car use and technical advancements in transport.

This strategy aims to use land and the location of housing and jobs to help plan for future transport to encourage shorter trips and sustainable transport, develop Darwin’s road network to support the region’s economy, make public transport more efficient and encourage cycling and walking in the region.

To achieve this, it proposes to continue integrating regional land use and transport plans, upgrade regional public transport networks, deliver the major road projects outlined in the Roads and Bridges Strategy, integrate transport modes such as bus stops, parking and cycling paths, and continue to encourage ‘active transport’ such as cycling or walking.

Delivering growth

These new transport strategies are part of the Northern Territory Government’s larger Integrated Transport Planning and Investment Roadmap that aims to create a framework for the territory’s transport needs moving forward.

Improving the territory’s road, aviation and public transport infrastructure will not only support the current industries, but create opportunities for new growth in northern Australia.

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