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Northern Territory development opportunities

05 April, 2006

Large-scale development projects have the potential to create far-reaching impacts on the Northern Territory economy and significant new and expanded manufacturing opportunities for the Territory during project construction and operation.

Territory Business Channel

Major projects are the subject of individual development action by the Northern Territory Government's Office of Territory Development. These projects include the AustralAsia Railway construction and associated development activities, Timor Sea gas-based developments and related onshore projects, and the current major Defence initiatives. These major projects are important to the Territory's manufacturing sector and the context for the development of this strategy.

The role of major projects in manufacturing sector development has been well demonstrated in the nonmetallic minerals manufacturing sub-sector, with around two million sleepers made for the Alice Springs to Darwin Railway during the track construction phase.

Additional opportunities for the Territory manufacturing sector are arising from completion of the railway developments and the associated infrastructure, freight and transport facilities. Other manufacturing industry opportunities, making use of the fast, dependable cross-country transport service and the new Port of Darwin facilities, are expected to emerge now that the railway has begun operations.

From a manufacturing industry sector perspective, the Territory is entering a major new phase of development related to onshore Timor Sea gas. ConocoPhillips has begun construction of a liquid natural gas plant at Wickham Point and the production and pipeline facilities needed to deliver the gas to the plant are also underway.

In the medium to long term, gas from the Bayu-Undan, Greater Sunrise and related Timor Sea gas reserves could be used as feedstocks for new manufacturing facilities, for example, to produce plastics, fertilisers and various petrochemicals and as a cheaper energy source for other manufacturing enterprises.

The smaller Blacktip field may be developed in the short term, with a current proposal for the gas to be piped overland to provide cheaper, clean energy for the expansion of Alcan's alumina manufacturing operation at Nhulunbuy.

These developments have the potential to lead to major manufacturing sector growth and a broadening of the Territory's economy. The responsibility within the Northern Territory Government for facilitating these developments is with the Office of Territory Development. More details are available from http://www.theterritory.com.au" target=

The Australian Defence Force has grown over the past decade to become a major component of the Northern Territory economy. To date in excess of one billion dollars has been spent on large capital works in the Northern Territory. The growing defence presence and increasing capital and recurrent expenditure has opened up opportunities for Northern Territory businesses to manufacture and supply a range of goods and services.

The arrival in 2005 of new Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters and Armidale Class Patrol Boats will provide further opportunities for the manufacture, supply and service of state-of-the-art defence equipment by Northern Territory businesses. The continued defence growth in the Northern Territory has meant a greater dependence on local industry and in response industry has grown and adapted to meet defence needs. The Department of Business, Economic and Regional Development, through the Defence Support Division, is responsible for facilitating the development of the defence support industry. More details are available from http://www.aidn.org.au" target="_blank">www.aidn.org.au

The significance of the price effects of large-scale projects for the manufacturing industry sector and for the Territory economy generally should not be overlooked. Increased demand for inputs or raw materials, without matching increases in supply, can lead to sharp rises in raw material prices. Resources, including skilled labour for example, are likely to move to those projects and industries which can afford to pay and remain competitive. These effects can impact on the competitiveness of other firms and industries.

The Northern Territory Government clearly recognises that major projects are essential to the further development of the Territory economy. To maximise the opportunities for involvement by Territory businesses in these projects, and to enhance business and industry capability, the Government released Building Northern Territory Industry Participation in May 2003. A central component of this policy framework is the commitment to use Industry Participation Plans to assist decision making in relation to government purchasing and investment and to help create new jobs for Territorians.

Investment Attraction

Research undertaken by the Centre for International Economics during the preparation of Making it in the Territory has shown that investment in the manufacturing sector is a key driver for future growth in the Northern Territory. The importance of this issue goes beyond the immediate scope of this strategy, as investment is particularly important to the growth of the Territory as a whole.

The Northern Territory Government has adopted a strategic approach to investment attraction through the provision of advice and facilitation of investment activities. Support and in certain circumstances financial support is provided on a case-by-case basis, subject to sound commercial viability and in line with the Territory's priorities.

The Department of Business, Economic and Regional Development’s Industry Development Division responds to the needs of individual investor requirements. The division has a strategic and targeted industry sector focus on industries, including manufacturing, where unique opportunities exist to build capability and capacity in the Territory.


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Fingers Aluminium are specialists in aluminium and stainless steel fabrication. Says Mark 'Fingers' Taylor: "Our mission is to provide the highest standard of service in the manufacture and supply of specialist aluminium and stainless steel products promptly and efficiently."

Fingers Aluminium has been operating in Darwin for over 15 years, providing personalised service backed by fully qualified tradespeople. "Fingers Aluminium can manufacture and repair anything in light and heavy gauge stainless steel or aluminium at our own premises," Taylor says.

Fingers Aluminium is a member of the Regional and Northern Maintenance Services (RANms) business group, a recent initiative of 10 Darwin companies which are specialists in the provision of tailored maintenance services and supplies to Defence, resources and infrastructure development projects.

For more information: http://www.fingers.com.au/home.htm" target="_blank">www.fingers.com.au/home.htm

Territory Competitiveness

The Northern Territory's competitive advantages, such as its proximity to priority Asian markets, are relevant to the manufacturing sector as well as to other sectors.  Creating a more competitive business environment is an important element of the Territory’s development context.

Priority business environment issues for the manufacturing sector, identified during the preparation of this strategy, include the cost of power, staff mobility, transport and insurance costs. They impact significantly on the performance and growth prospects of all sectors of the Territory economy including the manufacturing sector.

These issues and action to enhance and improve the competitiveness of the Northern Territory's business environment are, however, beyond the immediate scope of Making it in the Territory. Government and economy-wide action on individual issues is being explored and is to be pursued progressively. Such actions would help Territory manufacturers through cost reductions and by improving the competitiveness of Territory manufactures locally and in national and international markets.

Ongoing contributions from the Manufacturers Council, manufacturers, involved unions and manufacturing suppliers and customers will be important to the targeting and implementation of priority actions to further enhance the competitiveness of the Territory business environment.

Northern Territory competitive advantages include:

- Location – Australia’s Asian gateway and proximity to major international markets
- Development of Australia’s second largest LNG hub
- Abundant mineral resources
- Land available for development
- Competitive construction costs
- Infrastructure capacity and skills
- Seasonal niche opportunities in agriculture and tourism
- Unique outdoor lifestyle

Infrastructure and Land

An issue identified during the development of this strategy was access to appropriate land and supporting infrastructure for manufacturing industries. This is an issue that is addressed by the Territory Government in a variety of ways. The Planning Concepts and Land Use Objective process ensures adequate provision for light and general industry areas in subdivision design. The private sector development industry plays a significant role in providing industrial land to the market.

The Territory Government has recently established the Territory Land Development Corporation. This initiative will expand industrial opportunities and oversee the development of specific industrial land estates around the Territory. The Corporation will provide local companies with a more sustainable and balanced platform to take full advantage of emerging projects such as the railway and oil and gas.

Located within the East Arm Development Area is the new 100 hectare Darwin Business Park being developed as a base for regional supply, service and distribution, and value-adding opportunities. The Park presents ideal opportunities for investment in pre-retail preparation facilities, light assembly and manufacturing, pick and pack distribution and food processing and packaging. In addition, land is available on the private market in the Hudson Creek locality. More information is available from the website http://www.ldc.nt.gov.au" target="_blank">www.ldc.nt.gov.au

To meet the emerging needs of the Territory, the Territory Planning Scheme includes a Development (DV) Zone. The purpose of the zone is to accommodate industry of strategic importance to the economic development of the Northern Territory. This zoning now applies to the East Arm Development Area and to the proposed industrial estates at Wickham and Glyde Point. The 35 km2 Glyde Point Industrial Estate is being designed to accommodate gas-based manufacturing industries such as smelting operations, fertiliser and other chemical production, in association with Timor Sea natural gas supply.

Manufacturing Industry Support Programs

Some Australian jurisdictions have specific support programs and policies targeting the manufacturing industry sector. Others, like the Northern Territory, utilise their respective general business programs as well as relevant Commonwealth programs. A Summary of Manufacturing Sector Development Programs was prepared and published during the preparation of Making it in the Territory and is available from http://www.dberd.nt.gov.au" target="_blank">www.dberd.nt.gov.au

Northern Territory Programs

The Department of Business, Economic and Regional Development offers support programs and services on starting, managing and developing businesses. These current programs include free and confidential business information services covering many areas of business such as business planning, insurance and marketing.

The Business Services Division delivers a suite of business development and business growth programs to Territory businesses across all industry sectors, engaging with the business community through industry associations, common purpose business groups and individual businesses.

Activities include support for businesses in regional areas through Territory Business Centres, provision of information and advice by trained Client Managers, events such as October Business Month, training and development opportunities through Business Enterprise Centres and Upskill workshops, and specialised programs such as Youth, eBusiness and Business Growth. For more information, visit http://www.tbc.nt.gov.au" target="_blank">www.tbc.nt.gov.au

Commonwealth Programs

Some AusIndustry programs commonly used by manufacturers include Research and Development programs, the Innovation Access Program, National Technology Showcase Programs, COMET and Tradex. Other Commonwealth-funded general programs aimed at investment attraction and firm-specific assistance are available through Invest Australia and the National Office for the Information Economy.

Austrade’s Export Market Development Grant Scheme complements the Northern Territory Trade Support Scheme by providing assistance to small to medium sized exporters by reimbursing part of their overseas promotional expenses. It should be noted that many other Commonwealth Government responsibilities, such as macroeconomic management, taxation, foreign investment control and labour market regulation, are also important when examining the national policy framework of relevance to the manufacturing sector.

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