Northern Australia need to improve its “infrastructure trifecta”, Mount Isa Mayor Joyce McCulloch said.
Cr McCulloch said the costs of the region’s three essentials - energy, transport and water - impeded new investment.
“Government and private sector support to improve these is crucial for the future viability of industry across the north, particularly for the mining sector and emerging gas, agricultural and tourism,” Cr McCulloch said.
Her comments come ahead of a keynote address to a major forum on the resource driven development of northern Australia run by the Australia Geoscience Council in Adelaide on October 15.
Cr McCulloch said mining was a primary driver for economic growth but older mines were closing and exploration and investment was muted in recent years by low commodity prices.
“With global commodity prices improving, there is an opportunity for renewal in northern Australia’s mining industries but it needs more efficient use of infrastructure, improved exploration and mining approvals processes, encouraging the processing of waste material and attracting fresh resources-based capital," she said.
Cr McCulloch said a more holistic approach with strong regional partnerships would deliver greater resilience.
“Northern Australia must facilitate mineral sector development but stakeholders must diversify to create jobs and have government work with communities to deliver integrated and appropriate services,” she said.
“Slashing the ridiculously high regional air fares across northern Australia would be one major step-up point.”
Cr McCulloch said this should include pressure for better air travel deals based on improved airfare parity, price monitoring, cost reductions, competition enhancements and subsidies for northern Australia routes.
She said she hoped the Adelaide summit would also recognise the growth value to northern Australia of delivering more natural gas exploration programs, and rolling out new geoscience data systems.
“This is a time for long-term thinking,” she said.
“This applies particularly on the energy supply side where the region needs and could benefit from new gas discoveries in the Isa Superbasin to further support the area’s emerging new gas pipeline network and what that can do for new industrial opportunities and investment.”
Such momentum would also underpin the potential of regional council efforts across northern Australia to bolster economic development, such as the new Tennant Creek to Mount Isa Cross Border Commission with its focus on transport and energy outcomes in the region.