Last week I had the privilege of travelling across the just-opened border to Queensland and the City of Rockhampton, for the 2020 Developing Northern Australia (DNA) Conference.
We had this Conference in Karratha last year and the 2020 one was postponed until late November to avoid the COVID-19 lockdowns.
The DNA Conference is a platform to unite leaders, decision makers, industry representatives and community members to advance our northern regions and is closely aligned with the Australian Government’s “Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia” released in 2015.
The intent is to drive growth, investment and support for northern Australia through trade, investment, a more diversified northern economy and expanded infrastructure.
My talk was entitled “What regional economies can do to expand their economy” and used Karratha as an example of how with persistence, drive and financial support, we can transform our northern towns.
One of our earlier findings was the limitations on growth that results from conflicting regulations and legislation in the three northern States. These impede trade, investment and communication across the north.
Some themes emerging from this Conference were that the time has now come to build a pipeline of investment opportunity, using both government and private sector finance.
It was recognised that we need a focused Northern Australia partnership strategy, joining WA, NT and QLD in planning and legislative reform. Land tenure reform in particular is essential, as is collaboration between economic sectors to make our long supply chains more efficient – building water, transport and port infrastructure and linkages.
It was agreed that we need a stronger focus on insurance costs, renewable energy, health, tourism plus high value manufacturing and processing.
A key role for VET and Higher Education was acknowledged in regional communities.
Next year’s DNA Conference will be held in August, in Darwin, NT.