Regional economic development

The Northern Territory (NT) Government is focused on attracting new investment in regional areas.

Regional areas of the NT offer economic opportunities in mineral and energy resources, tourism, and agricultural products such as meat, seafood, fruit, vegetables, crops, forestry and ornamental plants.

The potential commercial benefit from native flora and fauna, food and medicines is largely untapped.

The Department of the Chief Minister is helping to create new economic opportunities by doing all of the following:

  • strengthening relationships between private enterprise and government through the NT Regional Development Framework (see below)
  • financial support through the Regional Economic Development Fund
  • supporting regional economic development committees to give advice to government on local needs
  • providing NT regional economic profiles to attract investment
  • managing selected projects to maximise investment opportunities.

Go to the Northern Territory Government website to read more about the Regional Economic Development Fund.

Northern Territory Regional Development Framework

The Northern Territory Regional Development Framework gives local communities the opportunity to drive their own development goals and ideas and contribute to government decisions that affect their region.

The Regional Development Framework includes:

  • five regional economic development committees in Nhulunbuy, Katherine, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and the Tiwi Islands
  • a Regional Development Senior Office Group made up of senior representatives from government agencies.

About the Regional Development Senior Office Group

The group is chaired by a representative from the Department of Regional Development and Women’s Policy.

The group advises on regional development initiatives across the NT.

They make sure information from the regional economic development committees is communicated to government agencies.

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This page had economic profiles for the Northern Territory (NT) regions.

The Central Australia region is the geographical centre of Australia.

Desert land covers 600,000 square kilometres and 40% of the NT.

The Central Australia region contributes an estimated 18% ($2.9 billion) to the NT gross state product.

Alice Springs, the second largest town in the NT, with a population of roughly 28,000, services a total regional population of 41,000.

Alice Springs is the major economic, business and service hub for the region, and also services parts of South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.

The economy is sustained by mining, tourism and primary industries and is underpinned by government funding for regional service delivery and defence.

A large percentage of the Central Australia region’s population live in outlying communities including the Yulara township, which provides accommodation and services for the tourism industry at Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park.

Yulara's population of just over 1,000 people is increased by visitor numbers to around 300,000 each year.

Other major remote centres in the Central Australia region include Ntaria, Yuendumu and Papunya, with the rest of the population widely spread across the region in smaller communities, outstations, pastoral properties and mining operations.

These residents depend on Alice Springs for supplies and essential services.

The Barkly region covers 283,606km², which is 21% of the NT.

The town of Tennant Creek has a population of around 3,500 people and is the service hub for the region.

The Barkly region also includes the major remote towns of Elliott and Ali Curung.

The Barkly economy is largely dependent on mining. It is also supported by a number of other industries including tourism, pastoral, construction, retail, and community and government services.

The Alice Springs to Darwin railway connects the Top End of the NT to the rest of Australia through the Barkly region, opening the area to tourism and providing opportunities for economic growth.

The Big Rivers Region comprises of a vast area extending between the western and eastern borders of the Northern Territory and making up 22% of the northern land mass.

Located 320km south of Darwin, the township of Katherine is the region’s central service and supply hub connecting Darwin to Adelaide by the north-south transcontinental rail route. Katherine is strategically positioned to connect trade routes from Australia’s east, west and south to the major port of Darwin which is busiest live export port in the world and is ideally located as the closest Australian capital city to growing Asian markets

With a broad-based economy that is driven by key industry sectors such as mining, agriculture, tourism and defence, the region boasts some of the most significant economic activity in Northern Australia including:

  • One of the largest deposits of zinc-lead in the world at McArthur River Mine
  • The Beetaloo Sub-basin as a world-class shale gas resource and home to over three-quarters of the Northern Territory’s prospective shale gas resources at 500 trillion cubic feet in one shale layer alone
  • Home to the Grow Out Facility for Project Sea Dragon as a large-scale, integrated, land-based prawn aquaculture project with potential to generate 130,000 – 180,000 tonnes of black tiger prawns per annum
  • Katherine’s photovoltaic park (34 MW) as the largest solar farm in the Northern Territory and a major contributor to the Northern Territory Government’s objective of producing 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030
  • Home to Larrimah Agricultural Precinct Development as one of the three largest agriculture land releases in the history of the Northern Territory delivering almost 100,000 hectares into production in the coming years
  • Production of 35% of the national mango crop
  • Home to some of the most renowned tourism destinations in Northern Australia including Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) and Elsey National Parks as well as many other experiences built around vast river systems, savannah plains, rocky escarpments and untouched coastlines.

The East Arnhem region is one of the most remote regions in Australia, covering roughly 33,596km² in the north-eastern corner of the NT.

The region has a population of 16,070 (as at 2011), living in and around the main centre of Nhulunbuy and the major remote towns of Alyangula, Angurugu and Umbakumba (Groote Eylandt), Ramingining, Milingimbi, Galiwinku, Yirrkala and Gapuwiyak.

Nhulunbuy is a service hub for the more remote locations in the region, including around 100 homelands and outstations.

The region supports the fishing, mining and tourism industries.

Located roughly 80km north of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands boast rich cultural history and economic diversity with good potential for future growth.

The Tiwi Islands are made up of two main islands, which are Bathurst and Melville.

Melville Island is the second largest Australian island after Tasmania. The geographic area of the Tiwi Islands is over 3,000km².

Aboriginal Australian art, tourism, forestry plantations and mineral sand mining (with exports to China) are some of the locally generated internationally recognised industries on the islands.

There are also retail opportunities, construction ventures, and community and government service provision supporting the local economy.

Australian Rules Football generates national and international attention, with several Tiwi Islands players exported to the ‘big league’.

The strong water flows in the Apsley Strait, which separates the two main islands, present opportunities for future power generation.

For more information on the Central Australia region, go to bushtel.nt.gov.au

This page has contact details for the regional economic development offices in the Northern Territory.

Central Australia Development Office
55 Todd Mall
Alice Springs

PO Box 8470
Alice Springs NT 0871

Phone: 08 8951 5785
cado.nt@nt.gov.au

Katherine Regional Office
Shop 1, Randazzo Building
18 Katherine Terrace
Katherine

GPO Box 867
Katherine NT 0851

Phone: 08 8973 8103
cado.nt@nt.gov.au

Barkly Regional Office
Ground Floor, Barkly House
99 Patterson Street
Tennant Creek

PO Box 95
Tennant Creek NT 0861

Phone: 08 8962 4472
cado.nt@nt.gov.au

Nhulunbuy Regional Office
Level 1, Arnhem House
Franklyn Street
Nhulunbuy

PO Box 796
Nhulunbuy NT 0881

Phone: 08 8987 0563
cado.nt@nt.gov.au

Northern Australia Development Office
Ground Floor, Development House
76 The Esplanade
Darwin

GPO Box 4396
Darwin NT 0801

Phone: 1800 733 458
nado.nt@nt.gov.au


Last updated: 27 October 2021

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