THE Australian Government last week released the first Infrastructure Australia audit of northern Australia's infrastructure, which outlines the region's current infrastructure asset base and its potential long-term needs.
According to the government, the findings of the audit affirm its objective of further developing the north and to encourage greater levels of private sector investment in infrastructure in northern Australia.
It found that the population in northern Australia is projected to grow more quickly than Australia as a whole, at 1.8 per cent a year, compared to 1.6 per cent in the broader population.
At this growth rate, northern Australia is expected to be home to around 1.77 million people by 2031, while upper estimates place up to 2.1 million people in the north.
The Australian Government plans to work with northern jurisdictions to develop a pipeline of critical infrastructure projects—roads, rail, water, electricity, ports and communications—to cater for the growing population and deliver economic growth.
"The right mix of infrastructure investment, delivered in the right place at the right time will be critical to providing a strong future for northern Australia," Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said in a joint statement.
"It will also ensure northern businesses and communities are better connected, both across the north and with growing international markets to Australia's north," they said.
"Reforms being undertaken to improve infrastructure planning, project appraisal and selection will complement the work of the audit.
"This work will assist in allocating funding to infrastructure projects that return the highest benefits to communities for a stronger and more prosperous northern Australia."
The audit report will inform the Australian Government's upcoming Northern Australia White Paper.
Key audit findings include that:
- Backlogs in maintaining existing assets must be a priority to fund and resolve;
- Cost-benefit analysis is essential to evaluating and prioritising investment decisions; and
- Communities and the private sector need to drive decisions to ensure infrastructure meets the needs of users.
More information is available from the Infrastructure Australia website at <http://www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/publications/#anc_na_audit>.