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Rethinking the future of northern Australia's regions: more than mines, dams and development dreams

  • Year: 2013
  • Author: The Regional Australia Institute
  • State/Region: Northern Australia

Northern Australia remains the topic of fierce debate and renewed policy interest. While discussion often centres on the prospects for particular industries or projects, it is essential that the national debate and resulting policy frameworks take into account the diversity of situation and opportunity in the north.

To identify the imperatives for a balanced, regionally responsive development strategy for northern Australia, this paper has reviewed the competitiveness profiles from [In]Sight: Australia’s regional competitiveness index.

Consultation and input on the results and issues highlighted by this work was then sought from leaders in regional development across northern Australia to refine and focus the findings and implications.

The results of this process show very clearly that infrastructure and human capital are the two most serious bottlenecks for growth in northern Australia. Business sophistication is also weaker on average compared to the rest of Australia and is likely to act as a further constraint in many areas.

In contrast, economic fundamentals in northern Australia have been very high, reflecting the extent to which the resources boom has occurred, and continues to occur in northern Australia.

The most important insight from the analysis is an understanding of the particular opportunities and challenges that three distinct types of regions offer in northern Australia. These three regional types are the Northern cities, the diverse group of mid-sized towns and the very remote pastoral areas and Indigenous communities. 

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