THE Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association has released a $535 million strategic road funding wish list which will create 3,000 jobs and drive the economic growth of four industries.
NTCA President Chris Nott said road infrastructure was critical to the Territory dragging itself out of the economic hole it has found itself in.
“The identified roads are not just for the benefit of the cattle industry but also the resources (mining and onshore gas) and the tourism sector,” he said.
“These are wealth generating infrastructure suggestions designed to ensure that the productivity of the Territory economy can be dramatically improved.
“We are seeking a $535 million injection of funds into key roads over a five-year period. This will create 3,000 jobs and unlock the true productivity potential of regional and remote Northern Territory. We are asking for $5 million of those funds to be for a Design and Planning Fund. This is to ensure there are ‘shovel-ready’ road projects.”
Mr Nott said the Northern Territory road network covers some 22,000km.
Of this total distance, approximately 70 percent (15,000km) is unsealed.
This poses significant challenges to industry due to the increased costs of transport.
The Northern Territory Road Transport Association (NTRTA) has calculated the cost of transport for heavy vehicles on unsealed roads in NT as 30pc higher than those of sealed roads, with many transport operators charging a fee of $0.10/deck/km or $0.60/road train/kilometre for working on dirt roads on top of their standard cartage rates.
Transport costs are among the biggest expense to the pastoral industry; up to 35% of the sale price of an animal in the NT given the average distance to port or slaughter for NT stations is 835km, so the additional costs to pastoralists are significant. The cost calculations are linked directly to the pastoral sector, however, the productivity gains through strategic roads investments will flow on to all industries – especially the resources sector – which will benefit from all-weather, all year access. “The Plenty Highway runs right past my front door and I can tell you it is a constant cause of frustration where this year properties were adding 800km-900km on to trips just to avoid the terrible state it was in,” Mr Nott said.
Roads give ‘more bang for buck’
NTCA chief executive officer Ashley Manicaros said a roads package like this would provide “more bang for buck” than what had been identified in the first report of the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission’s report.
“The Commission recommends the Territory Government approaches the Australian Government to bring forward nominally committed road funding on the basis that the Territory Government will accelerate the upgrade of the Central Arnhem Road from Katherine to Nhulunbuy to a two-lane sealed standard to provide year-round access, and in doing so support the fulfilment of the East Arnhem region’s potential for economic development, including an Aboriginal led tourism industry (an additional $420 million on top of the $230 million over 10-15 years currently committed).” Page 9, First Report, TERC
“The example road the TERC report had does not serve multiple industries and if this is pushed as a government priority then it will take a decade and half to see any benefit,” Mr Manicaros said.
“The NTCA believes the need for infrastructure which will improve the economic productivity of existing industries is far more critical in accelerating economic repair.”