Key stakeholders and suppliers from the resource and construction industry gathered on 29 – 30October 2013. This meeting of the minds at the Darwin Convention Centre has been taking place consecutively for the past 4 years. Currently the Northern Territory economy is growing due to major projects currently underway in the Northern Territory; 2012-13 saw the highest recorded Construction growth margin, increased by 83.4% it accounted for 70% of the total value of the Territory construction activity; primarily due to Ichthys project.
Tony Mott, Director – Investment Services Office of Asian Engagement, Trade and Investment, Department of the Chief Minister opened discussions that set the tone for day one; discussing global investment trends and how Darwin can benefit from Asia in the future. He also discussed tools and strategies required to capitalise on the opportunities that present themselves in the Territory for future growth and development.
Dr. Tom Rayner, Research Leader, Northern Research Futures Collaborative Research Network followed with an interesting prospective into climate change and the future of major projects. This thought provoking presentation had delegates thinking about managing labour costs when ‘very hot days’ increase, the importance of adaptive management, being open to innovation as well as new data management.
David Gwyther, Deputy General Manager Darwin, INPEX provided insight into Ichthys LNG Project progression. David highlighted that the workers village is now completed and the project is well and truly underway – promoting local Industry participation through a plan with the NT Government. Paul Taplin, Director, Utilibiz Pty Ltd followed speaking about the risks in contracts, tools for minimising risk through stakeholder analysis, early construct-ability and the need to keep consultants “on the hook”.
Rob Bell, Managing Director, Western Australian Resources Limited discussed Project Sea Dragon which is a large scale Aquaculture project. The plan is to change the landscape of protein production by acquiring 10,000 – 15,000 ha of land in the Northern Territory; this area would house the production site for the project. This site would produce large quantities of prawns with the plan to export them to Asia. The proposed project comes at a time where the need for agri-food is increasing and Australia has the perfect landscape necessary to begin this development.
Discussions about plans for developing the Top End led to the question of the day ‘Could the Northern Territory become the food bowl for Asia?’ During the panel discussion, panellists discussed development plans for the Top End which included discussions about how the Northern Territory could become the food bowl for Asia as well as the importance of current projects happening in the Territory.
Following the Panel Discussion, Lorraine Corowa, Director Ord Development Unit, from the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries posed the big question; how to fund this agricultural development? Can Australia capitalise in this market and compete with the Asian markets? The answer, it seems is not simple and opinions were varied.
The Hon. Peter Styles began his presentation speaking about Ichthys LNG Project and the importance of supplying Liquefied Natural Gas to Japan as Japan is reducing its Nuclear power uses. The Minister also discussed how Darwin’s port is growing and he believes that LNG can be developed beyond the Ichthys LNG Project. He concluded that foreign investment and critical infrastructure development is essential for the Territory’s future.
The Hon. Peter Chandler addressed lack of land releases and how this has been affecting people living in the Territory. In reply the NT Government has a Real Housing for Growth Plan where they will build 2,000 affordable homes and aim to reduce the renting burden by facilitating home ownership. These affordable houses will help the people in the middle that earn an average income, that are not entitled to live in government housing yet struggle to rent normally.
Brigadier Darren Naumann, Director-General, Infrastructure Asset Development, Department of Defence discussed the defence estate. With a balance sheet value of $20.8 billion, they spend $1 billion on capital facilities, $180 million on leases and over $450 million on estate maintenance. The infrastructure division is currently working on strategic planning, developing in a smart and sustainable way, as well as managing community related issues.
Terry O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer, Darwin Port Corporation spoke about Darwin’s Port. Darwin’s port does not compare with ports in Queensland or Western Australia as it has been created to support the miners. This port operates 24/7; the Darwin Port has been created with the latest technology and high quality systems. Terry O’Connor’s message was clear, come to Darwin as an alternative to Gladstone or Townsville to avoid the waiting time and get your goods transported from Darwin if necessary.
Ian Kew, CEO, Northern Territory Airport spoke about the $70 million terminal expansion that the airport is currently undergoing. This will see the airport as a two storey, modern, integrated terminal with 100% Checked Baggage Screening (Domestic and International). Darwin’s Airport has already seen major growths as Jetstar used to be the only international airline departing from Darwin. Now Darwin Airport welcomes AirAsia, Philippine Airlines and Malaysia Airlines.
The Conference concluded with presentations from John Di Maria, Acting Executive Director Operations, NT Tourism and Kirsty McInnes, Managing Director, UNO Management Services. John Di Maria spoke about the importance of tourism to the Northern Territory economy; NT Tourisms’ goal is to ‘grow the visitor economy in the Northern Territory to $2.2 billion by 2020’. He also spoke about their new marketing approach with their new TVC that is currently airing across Australia.
The Conference was a huge success providing insight into the Major Projects taking place in the Territory. It created a much needed forum for stakeholders to learn, network and participate in discussions. With support from the Northern Territory Government and over 35 sponsors, the conference was well received; ‘well organised’, ‘excellent opportunity’, ‘very professional presentations’ and ‘fantastic set up’. Expotrade Australia will host the 5th Annual NT Major Projects Conference next year on the 22– 23 October 2014.