NT budget locks in roads and ports for mining future

·3-min read

The Northern Territory has pumped the lion's share of budget funding into roads and port infrastructure, in preparation for future mining projects and defence investment.

In her first budget Treasurer Eva Lawler revealed a forecast operating surplus of $121 million by 2024-25 and a fiscal surplus of $67m by 2026-27 on the back of increased GST revenue and mining royalties.

Ms Lawler said the infrastructure program was biggest in the territory's history, with $4.07 billion for roads and other transport infrastructure.

A $2.1b investment mainly to seal roads to connect the NT to the east and west coasts was the most significant spend in the budget.

"Our strategic location and abundance of natural resources make us a competitive place to invest - and we are ensuring we capitalise on every opportunity to grow a stronger, more prosperous territory," Ms Lawler said.

The Santa Teresa Road and Tanami Road that connect WA with the NT and cut through the Beetaloo sub-basin will prepare the region for "gas and other industries".

The budget predicts total exports will climb to $11.3b from $9.2b in the next three years if Santos' Barossa gas project moves to production.

Minerals Council of Australia NT executive director Cathryn Tilmouth said the resources sector continued to do the heavy lifting for the economy.

The value of the territory's minerals output reached $4.9b in 2021-2022, up 13.6 per cent on the previous year.

"The MCA commends the NT government's commitment in the 2023-24 budget to grow the minerals sector through the commitment of $6m to advancing the recommendations of the Minerals Development Taskforce," Ms Tilmouth said.

Environment Centre NT chief executive Kirsty Howey labelled the budget "insane" for being largely dependent on resources, an industry taking its "last gasping breaths around the globe."

"It's an abject failure of economic and fiscal management," she said.

The budget included a $39m package to fight crime as community concern grows over mounting violence.

The package included investment in alternatives to custody and jail programs to address the social determinants of crime.

But Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said the government had failed to adequately address community safety or crime.

"This budget needed to be something that could strengthen our police force and give the community something to rally behind in knowing that the government has heard their concerns," she said.

"And instead, the community's concerns on crime have fallen on deaf ears."

Ms Finocchiaro said the budget included a little more than $2m in additional new money for police services.

Attorney-General Chansey Paech told parliament the government was focused on "reducing the cycle of crime" and was investing across the justice portfolio and spending almost $60m on the Aboriginal Justice Agreement.

Hospitality NT chief executive Alex Bruce said the budget was a positive economic story but needed to go further to address crime which was top of the agenda for restaurant and bar owners.

The government announced a $1.1b for public order and safety and $721m toward social protection.

The budget included $842m for remote and urban housing projects and $2b will be spent on regional and remote hospitals, including a $48.7m Royal Darwin Hospital upgrade.

NT BUDGET 2023/24

Deficit: $1.13b

Revenue: $8.2b

Expenditure: $8.31b

Net debt: $9.23b

GST revenue: $3.8b

Unemployment: 4.2 per cent

Growth: 2.7 per cent