Today the government has released its Blueprint for the future of the North West Minerals Province (NWMP). State Member for Mount Isa, Robbie Katter says it’s a nice gesture but it won’t address the major issues facing the economy in the North West.
“Its taken the government a long time to release this blueprint. The original reporting period for the NWMP taskforce was the 2nd quarter of 2016 and now, more than one year on, we get something that is positive in some ways but falls well short of what needs to be done to sure up investment in the region.”
“The costs and handling of energy, transport and water supply are the main issues holding back investment. Successive governments have had many years to address these problems and they’ve done nothing”
Robbie says the difficult investment conditions are starting to severely impact local economies.
“The people in the region aren’t stupid. They know that if energy prices stay high and infrastructure access continues to get more difficult, industry investment will dry up. People aren’t going to buy houses or invest in businesses while these issues are still out there.”
Robbie says reviving the North West economies will take more than the $39 million announced today.
“Fixing these issues requires policy that neither of the major parties have been prepared to put forward. It requires them to put the domestic economy ahead of government owned businesses and the interests of a few major LNG companies. It requires them to implement a policy that ensures adequate, and cheaply priced, gas supply for domestic users as well as policies that improve access to cheap electricity”.
Robbie points to energy as the greatest challenge for the North West.
“If I had to choose one issue that causes the biggest problem its energy, both gas and electricity. Since 2012 I’ve been speaking in parliament about the negative impacts the LNG industry could have on the domestic economy. Unfortunately we have exceeded even the worst expert forecasts of how high local gas prices could get. It’s not uncommon to hear of companies who were paying $4-$6/GJ to be offered up to $20/GJ for new contracts”
“Electricity is a similar issue. The North West had an opportunity in 2012 to be connected to the national grid through the CopperString project however that didn’t succeed for a range of reasons. Now, rather than being able to source electricity from all the suppliers in the national market those who want power have two options, buy it from the only large scale generator in the region or build your own power plant”.
The problems of energy, water and transport aren’t new in the North West and the worst part about the situation is successive governments have ignored it and now the fix is bigger than it needs to be.
“We could have solved these problems incrementally over the last decade however it’s been easy for the major parties to ignore the region. Now we find ourselves in a situation where big, hard policy decisions must be made.”