Article – Huge growth is full of risk

30 October 2013
Neda Vanovac
Northern Territory News/Sunday Territorian
TERRITORIANS may not want the development the Government is pushing for.
The NT has been experiencing an economic boom with large oil and gas projects in the works, but development isn’t always the only way forward, says Greg Bicknell, chief executive of the NT’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Undeveloped and untouched is not necessarily a bad thing,” he told the NT Major Projects Conference in Darwin yesterday.
He said it’s important that the residents of the Territory have their say in the way the state is developed, rather than decisions being driven by bureaucrats in Canberra.
“The NT is on many people’s bucket list, so they’ll go there once and tick the box, but are they prepared to preserve it?” he asked.
“Whose view (matters)? The voters and taxpayers in the Northern Territory or the rest of Australia?”   He says the economy of scale in the NT has always been a challenge, given the small population and vast distances in a jurisdiction that makes up one sixth of Australia’s land mass.
And there is only limited potential to turn the NT into “the food bowl of Asia” as per the federal government’s 2030 vision for northern Australia, says Tony Mott, director of the Investment Services Office of Asian Engagement within the NT’s Department of Trade and Investment   He said the amount of high-quality arable land was limited.
“If we want to be more than a niche food supplier to our new Asian markets, then it’ll take a really big investment that may not pay off,” he said.
“We have pockets of land that can grow good produce, from pineapples to peanuts to petunias, but we’ve got to get it to market, and by the time it gets there it might be at a higher cost than other suppliers.”   But Mr Bicknell said increasing Asian demand meant high prices wouldn’t be such an issue: “The vast middle class to our immediate north will push demand for food production and make it more attractive economically for people.”
Courtesy of the Northern Territory News/Sunday Territorian