In short the growth figures for the region immediately to our north are staggering and the economic opportunities very significant. While other areas of the economy are also expected to benefit, oil and gas, mining, agribusiness, tourism, education and defence have been identified as the most likely frontline performers.
But what will this mean for Territorians? For a start, identification of Darwin as the capital of Northern Australia and Asia’s gateway to Australia means that we will need to present ourselves to Asia as a stable, reliable, friendly and capable business partner. And we will need to provide the types of infrastructure that large companies operating on the world stage expect for their workers and their families.
For example, we are already seeing large companies establishing offices here in Darwin creating a demand for “state of the art” office accommodation which provides better amenities and services to attract and retain quality staff.
There will also be a growing need for a greater diversity of housing, particularly affordable housing, than we currently offer. This will be needed to accommodate the full spectrum of people, including singles and families of various sizes. And that range of accommodation will be needed throughout Greater Darwin (the Central Business District, the suburbs and the rural area).
It is reasonable to expect that our new trading partners from Asia may increasingly demand development industry innovation such as we are currently seeing in China, particularly if we want to attract them to do business with us and establish offices here in the NT. For example, introduction of innovative, potentially time-saving building methods could assist us to deliver more affordable housing products.
The development industry generally has a sound understanding of the current needs of the customers here in Australia. After all, we have been building housing to meet the needs of the housing market for a long time! But we will need to develop a much improved understanding of the needs of Asian customers if we are to satisfy their needs. For example some Asian customers are now seeking five or even six star hotels (neither of which we can currently offer in Darwin) to meet their accommodation needs when they travel to Darwin. It seems reasonable to expect that some of our trading partners will also have other requirements we may not have been asked to deliver in the past.
UDIA (NT) believes that in future our development industry will need to be working more effectively with the public and Indigenous communities on imaginative, new development ideas, particularly in our very attractive coastal environments. Many of our new Territorians will value such things as coffee shops and restaurants with a view (in fact such establishments are already highly valued by locals) and we will need to provide a more comprehensive range of such amenities if we are to attract and retain the new workforce, as well as their families, from high end companies we can expect to attract to the capital of the north.
Achieving the support of coastal Indigenous communities and the community at large for such developments will require the industry to demonstrate its commitment to environmental excellence and world-class community consultation programs.
Finally, as we move towards significantly more development of the north, (a path successive NT Governments have already embarked on through embracing the Conoco Phillips and Ichthys gas projects), it is worth remembering that whichever industry is expanding to take advantage of opportunities to our north, it will be the development industry which is providing the necessary accommodation and much of the other important community infrastructure. Hence it is essential that the development industry becomes actively engaged in the planning and delivery of the new northern Australia.