The Territory is shifting. In the wake of COVID-19, the Northern Territory Government is serious about making the Territory the comeback capital of Australia. With enviable natural resources, unbridled opportunity for growth, and an entrepreneurial spirit, the NT Government is on a fast track to grow the Territory to become a $40 billion economy by 2030.

Actively facilitating and winning more investment in the Territory was at the core of the recommendations made to the NT Government by the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission (TERC). To create the right environment for investment, the Territory Government has established three new Commissioners for Investment, Major Projects and Infrastructure.

Infrastructure NT, led by the Infrastructure Commissioner, will deliver strategic infrastructure planning and development which coordinates and aligns infrastructure needs with industry and population growth. Similar to I-bodies around Australia, Infrastructure NT will lead the development of a new Territory Infrastructure Framework, including a re-focussed Infrastructure Strategy and Infrastructure Plan to create an infrastructure ecosystem which supports economic growth. This will build on the work the NT Government has already undertaken to create jobs and plan for the future.

The role of the infrastructure commissioner

The interim NT Infrastructure Commissioner, Louise McCormick, was appointed to the role earlier this year. Ms McCormick is the former General Manager of Transport and Civil Services for the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics for the Northern Territory Government. Ms McCormick, currently the Deputy Chair of Austroads and a Fellow of Engineers Australia chartered in Civil, Structural and Executive Engineering, is in good stead to prioritise and deliver on these nationally significant infrastructure projects.

Louise McCormick, IMAGE: Engineers Australia

The Infrastructure Commissioner’s role is to actively pursue investment, and drive major projects in the Territory. The NT Infrastructure Commissioner champions the needs of the Territory for infrastructure funding at a national level, to deliver the public infrastructure needed to secure the critically important job- creating projects, providing a crucial link to achieving the NT Government’s goal of a $40 billion economy.

“A key aspect of Infrastructure NT will be to work with Australian Government agencies, including Infrastructure Australia, to deliver nationally significant infrastructure projects and have a seat at the table with other Australian jurisdictions when it comes to prioritising national infrastructure projects,” Ms McCormick said.

“The Territory has boundless potential, which is not always well understood or recognised by non-Territorians – particularly the value the Territory can add to the national economy and resilience. I think COVID-19 has highlighted that the Territory has a role to play on the national stage with our agile and flexible approach serving us, and the nation, very well.

“There is an infrastructure deficit in the Territory which often creates a deterrent for investment. However, there is a real opportunity right now to invest in the right infrastructure, to not only realise the Territory’s potential, but to add to the nation’s economic resilience.” Ms McCormick said working collaboratively with Australian, State and Territory Government colleagues is crucial to increasing the visibility of what the Territory has to offer – particularly in regards to what the right infrastructure investment can achieve.

“Infrastructure NT will also work closely with the Investment and Major Project Commissioners to win projects and make them happen, for the benefit of not only Territorians, but all Australians,” Ms McCormick said.

Delivering economic enabling infrastructure

A point of difference for Infrastructure NT is that the Infrastructure Commissioner will also play a lead role in the delivery of NT Government-sponsored major projects that deliver economic enabling infrastructure such as the Ship Lift and Marine Industry Facilities at East Arm.

“The NT Government has been undertaking significant work on a number of game changing projects including the Ship Lift, Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct, Beetaloo Sub-Basin and the Adelaide River Off-stream Water Storage (AROWS). Many of these projects are now investment ready,” Ms McCormick said.

“I have every confidence that the Territory will embrace what is to come – we have done it before with the successful delivery of the $35 billion Inpex Onshore facility and the Darwin LNG plant before that. These mega projects can only be successful if governments and industry work together.

“There are also many opportunities to create more value, and jobs, with our world-class natural resources and opportunities for advanced manufacturing in Australia.”

The task ahead

The immediate challenges for the Infrastructure Commissioner include:

♦ Establishing a strategically focussed professional team to represent the Northern Territory in national discussions, ensuring the Territory’s public infrastructure requirements have Commonwealth and broader community support, including submissions to Infrastructure Australia for priority project listing

♦ Developing a new Territory Infrastructure Strategy incorporating annual Infrastructure Plans, ensuring the right infrastructure is built at the right time in the right place to support productivity, economic growth and regional sustainability, bolstering the Territory’s private sector

♦ Overseeing business cases and concept plans for ‘shovel worthy’ government projects, underpinned by appropriate community engagement and planning through the regional recovery committees

♦ Reviewing and defining processes to assess and prioritise all major publicly funded infrastructure investment proposals

It’s no easy feat, but a task that Ms McCormick is eager to progress. “Now is the time to deliver the next wave of projects to create positive transformational change in the Territory,” Ms McCormick said.

Louise McCormick will be speaking at the upcoming Critical Infrastructure: Digitisation Series Virtual Conference on 5 October. The event is free to attend for infrastructure asset owners, government and not-for-profits. Register for free at www.critical-infrastructure.com.au.

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