Article – What does the Northern Territory 2015/16 Budget mean for the bush?

28 April 2015
ABC Rural
This year’s Northern Territory Budget appears to be a straightforward one, with no real surprises or significant announcements for the bush.
Roads, infrastructure, a horticulture program, supporting Indigenous businesses and funds for Katherine flood mitigation, all feature in the Country Liberal Party’s record $6.3 billion budget.
The Northern Territory Country Hour team looks at what is means for people outside of Darwin.
Business in the Bush program
A $6 million Business in the Bush program aims to “provide sustainable job opportunities, as well as grow and strengthen business enterprise”.

Run over three years, the package will help businesses operate in small communities and will work towards connecting Indigenous Territorians with work opportunities.
“The challenges facing Indigenous Territorians and people in the bush are different to those in other areas,” Minister for Business Peter Styles said.
“By offering workers the opportunity to connect with jobs that are available outside their community, they will reap the benefits in terms of financial independence and extra skills.”
The Territory’s Primary Industry Minister, Willem Westra van Holthe, agrees that “jobs are the best form of welfare”.
“It’s going to give people who live remotely an opportunity to look at how they can operate their own businesses within their particular patch,” said Mr Westra van Holthe.
Horticultural development program for Central Australia
The horticulture sector in Central Australia will be given a $1.2 million helping hand to tap into new markets and advance the industry across the region.
Over two years, a project advisory team will conduct “targeted market analysis and research, engage with agribusiness and test market opportunities to de-risk investment and development of projects”.
Primary Industry Minister, Willem Westra van Holthe, said the program has the potential to expand the horticultural industry significantly.
“The climatic conditions in Central Australia have long proved challenging, largely restricting horticulture development,” he said.
“However, with new and emerging technical knowledge, a strategic investment in the right production systems could turn those conditions into an advantage.”
But a co-owner of the biggest table grape farm in the Northern Territory says the Government’s Budget announcement to support horticultural development is likely to be a waste of money.
Bevan Ball who farms near Ti Tree, said the Government needs to talk more to Red Centre growers and better promote the Territory as a great place to grow things like grapes and onions.

“We’re the guys who are on the ground, we know what’s going on around the place, we don’t need a consultant to put a paper together,” said Mr Ball.
He believes $1.2 million won’t go far.
“I figure it’ll pay four consultants to drive around, take a few notes, make a paper and then nothing happens in the next two years,” he said.
Roads infrastructure
The emerging forestry industry on the Tiwi Islands will benefit from local road upgrades as part of the NT Government’s $587 million spend on roads and transport infrastructure across the Territory.
The NT Minister for Transport, Peter Chandler, said $33.5 million would be spent sealing the Pickertaramoor Road over three years.

The Northern Territory Government commitment to roads infrastructure including:

  • $28.5 million for Litchfield Park Road;
  • $2.5 million to seal Lajamanu Road;
  • $5 million for Wollogorang Road – Robinson and Calvert crossings;
  • $25 million to complete the seal for the Mereenie Inner Loop – Larapinta Drive and;
  • $5 million to upgrade transport access at Gapuwiyak, Galiwinku, Maningrida and Ramingining.
  • $12.5 million to strengthen six bridges on the Tablelands Highway.
  • $20.7M for strategic economic roads, including the Arnhem Highway, Port Keats Road and the Pickertaramoor Road
  • $6.5M for upgrades to the Dundee Beach and Shady Camp boat ramps
  • $3M to upgrade Kambolgie Creek crossing

An estimated additional 219 kilometres of new sealed roads will be constructed as a result of the 2015 budget.
Source: Northern Territory 2015 budget documents

“Sealing the Pickertaramoor Road will support the new timber industry on Melville Island, as well as provide reliable access during the wet season for residents of the Islands,” he said.
“We have allocated $5 million to begin initial road construction, $1.5 million to complete the design work, and $27 million to further seal the road in 2016-17.”
Minister for Primary Industry Willem Westra van Holthe said major road and transport funding was the big ticket item for regional areas of the Northern Territory and denies the cattle industry has been forgotten in the Budget.
“This is probably the biggest ever infrastructure budget that we’ve had – $587 million going into roads across the Territory.
“You couldn’t possibly put your hand on your heart if you’re in the cattle industry and say that there’s nothing to talk about when you’re talking about that sort of money, in a large part, to rural and regional roads.”
Katherine flood mitigation
The Government’s $25 million flood mitigation funding for the town of Katherine is nothing new, having been announced previously as part of the sale of TIO.
A Flood Mitigation Advisory Committee have already been established in Katherine.
$7.6 million of the funding will be used to relocate the town’s flood-prone ambulance base.
Katherine mayor Fay Miller is on the committee and welcomed the money, but admitted Katherine could never be flood-proofed.

“We certainly won’t be building a levee,” she said.
“But we’re very pleased with the money after a lot of lobbying.”

Other investments for regional areas include:
* $5 million to replace the existing sewerage system infrastructure in Ali Curung, with full gravity reticulation in the highest risk areas of the community.* Improvements to the Ngukurr water supply through a $5.1 million project to upgrade water production and water storage at the community.
* $3.71 million to assist isolated students through the Katherine School of the Air.
* $900,000 will go to the Katherine and Victoria River Research Stations to support their research programs.
* $1.75 million a year ongoing for a new Office of Aboriginal Affairs and a further $4 million over two years for an Indigenous Economic Development Support Program.
* $250,000 for a new Indigenous Marine Training Program.
* $1 million over two years for a feasibility study investigating a new rail line linking Tennant Creek to Mount Isa.
* $2.9 million for land and water assessments to unlock the Territory’s agricultural potential including regions near Indigenous communities.
* $2 million to purchase a new water investigation drilling rig.
* $3 million to expand mobile phone and broadband services in remote Territory communities.
* $1.35million for rangelands monitoring of land conditions of pastoral estates.
* $500,000 to operate the Ti Tree Research Farm, and the Arid Zone and Old Man Plains research stations.
* $250,000 to increase weed management extension services to assist pastoralists in controlling weed incursions and infestations.
* $400,000 to support stage 3 of the Ord Development Project.
* $1.1 million to operate the Douglas Daly and Beatrice Hill research farms.
* $300,000 to operate the Coastal Plains Research Farm.
* $150,000 to conduct research and development to assist the cattle industry to efficiently supply the live export trade and Darwin abattoir with suitably prepared stock.
$587.1 million has been allocated to transport infrastructure in the 2015/16 NT Budget
Courtesy of ABC Rural