AgForce has welcomed government reforms to boost economic growth in northern Australia.
The changes, introduced through Federal Parliament recently, will speed up investment approvals for the government’s $5 billion lending financier – Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) – turbo-charging job and economic opportunities in the region.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said he strongly supported the move, and thanked the government for listening to industry and communities.
“It’s encouraging to see ministers acknowledging the need to further invest in northern Australia,” he said.
“AgForce has been lobbying for change for some time. While we recognised NAIF was an important investment vehicle, we strongly believed more could be done to improve its processes and make things easier for our members to access funding.
“One of our key factors was the need to see NAIF respond more quickly on lending matters. These reforms will enable businesses to apply for loans direct, simplifying the lending process, and cutting the administrative burden.
“Eligibility for funding has also been addressed, and investment areas now include equipment purchase, training, or the expansion of existing operations – giving more enterprises the opportunity to benefit.
“There really is so much potential in the region that is still yet to be unlocked, and with this announcement we can finally see the government is taking action towards a better tomorrow.”
Since it started operations in 2016, NAIF has made investment commitments of over $2.8 billion to 24 projects.
The reforms outlined in the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Amendment (Extension and Other Measures) Bill 2021 address the recommendations of a 2020 statutory review of NAIF which consulted widely on how NAIF could best contribute to economic development in the north.
Under the Bill, NAIF operations will be extended for a further five years, until 30 June 2026.
Reforms will also strengthen NAIF’s governance and allow it to make strategic equity investments in some projects, while an increased risk appetite will see it better able to respond to the economic challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Guerin added, “I’m confident that these reforms will unlock further potential across northern Australia to ensure the region further increases its contribution to jobs growth and economic activity.”