Barramundi farm first NT beneficiary of $5bn government incentive | Australia news
It has taken nearly two years but a barramundi farm near Darwin has become the first Northern Territory recipient to receive funds from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, with almost $30 million to expand its business.
The $5bn Naif was set up in July 2016 with fanfare about developing Australia’s economy but has been criticised, with only one other project, $16m for a marine support base in WA’s Pilbara, funded so far.
Humpty Doo Barramundi, located about an hour’s drive east of Darwin, will receive $28.7m and increase its workforce by 50 and more than treble its annual output to 10,000 tonnes.
That, with an initial $7.2m cheap loan from the fund and a similar amount from ANZ bank in the first stage of a $58m larger expansion, was announced by the minister for Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, at the farm on Wednesday.
The Naif is supposed to contribute $5bn to helping roll out projects over five years but is well short of that, ahead of the halfway point at the end of this year.
Senator Canavan recently admitted it was not performing as had been hoped when a requirement for half the total cost to be funded privately was scrapped to try and “get things moving”.
He said he was hopeful that projects of about $500m and $1bn would be approved this year putting NAIF on track to remit the money.
Other proposed projects include Darwin Airport, a solar farm in the NT and a power line from Mt Isa to Townsville, among 17 in the due diligence and execution phases from the NT, WA and Queensland.
The NT economy is struggling, with the looming end of the construction of the large Inpex gas project, and the Naif would help its economy and society be “financially self-sustaining”, Canavan said.
“It has been challenging for all state governments in northern Australia the past few years as a result of the downturn in mining,” he said.
“The Naif does need to make loans, it has got a clear objective in the act to help stimulate economic and population growth in northern Australia and we can only do that by making investments like this one today.”
The NT government’s divisive decision to open up the Beetaloo Basin to fracking for gas would open up job-creating opportunities, he said.
NT chief minister Michael Gunner said it was appropriately iconic that the fish farm receive the funds, given the nation’s love for barramundi.