Darwin is currently hosting the Northern Australia Investment Forum. The Forum, which is hosting 350 international business leaders, seeks to develop Northern Australia as a region for strong foreign investment. The geographical proximity to Asia and the underdeveloped potential of Northern Australia were recognised in the Australian Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia released in June 2015. The White Paper emphasised the untapped economic potential of 40% of Australia’s land mass despite the existence of skilled workers, strong governance and natural resources available in the region. The White Paper seeks to change the business dynamic in Northern Australia, replacing it with a business climate of attractive investment opportunities supported by Federal Government planning rather than ad hoc state management. The economic integration with Asia through Free Trade Agreements is hoped to further the development of Northern Australia. The White Paper recognised food and agribusiness, and resource and energy as two of the five pillars which offer the most potential for growth.
The White Paper recognised several issues that are currently seen to be stifling investment in the region. One was the uncertainty regarding the native title process and the perception of insecurity and uncertainty that indigenous land tenure represents to industry and foreign investment. The White Paper proposed native title bodies should assume a greater role in negotiation with business as a method for indigenous economic opportunity and security of land tenure. Insecurity of water resources in Northern Australia has also promoted a water resource assessment of the region’s major waterways. The establishment of the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund will operate simultaneously to the assessment to promote the security of water rights through investment in water infrastructure and knowledge. Further specific information can be found in the White Paper.
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