Five more years to hit $5b spending target
An infrastructure fund meant to provide $5 billion of cheap loans for projects in northern Australia will be extended for five years, after struggling to get money out the door.
The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility was due to expire next year, but with $3 billion still unused it will now last until June 30, 2026.
The Federal Opposition has repeatedly attacked the NAIF, which was created in 2016, and last month seized on figures showing only $130 million had been released to projects, including just $2 million in Queensland.
Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt said the fund, which had approved $2 billion worth of loans for 19 projects, would be tweaked to ensure a more flexible and faster approval process.
"This extension is the first step under the statutory review of the NAIF that aims to implement changes to enable a more flexible and faster approval process for proponents looking to access the facility," Mr Pitt said.
"Key to economic growth in the north will be capitalising on its comparative advantages in gas, critical minerals and renewable energy sources to support manufacturing and industry growth, and maximising the potential of the NAIF will be crucial in financing these economy revitalising projects."
He said the statutory review would be completed within months, creating an opportunity to get more projects up and running.
"The NAIF will also play a critical role in supporting the recovery of Northern Australia from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
"NAIF support can be crucial in catalysing private investment in the north during this important period of economic recovery when the private sector might be reluctant, or lack the resources, to invest."
Opposition spokesman for Northern Australia Murray Watt has repeatedly taken aim at the fund, labelling it the No Actual Infrastructure Fund and lamenting the "snail paced delivery".
He called in early April for the government to use the NAIF to kickstart the COVID-19 recovery in northern Australia.
Assistant Northern Australia Minister Michelle Landry said the NAIF was already playing an
important role in promoting economic development.
"To date, NAIF has approved $2 billion in loans for projects in Northern Australia, with over
half of that provided over the past year," she said.
"It is supporting an estimated 5200 jobs in sectors including education, resources, energy,
agriculture and aquaculture."
Originally published as Five more years to hit $5b spending target