Session 6 day 1

Thursday 23 February (day 1)

(scribe/author: John Pollock)

Session 6:  Working and Investing – Growth, Development and Jobs

Panel: Carlo Randazzo (Randazzo Properties), Ross Finocchiaro (Territory Property Group), Nick Hanigan (Paspaley), Brad Cunnington (town planner)

Carlo Randazzo

Principles that guide governance:

  •   Efficiency & productivity;
  • Good governance and good ideas interact;
  • Environment;
  • Corporate memory;
  • Accepting and dealing with errors;
  • Justice & fairness;
  • Security.

Ross Finocchiaro

Unexpected & bizarre politics in the contemporary era:

  • Giles government;
  • Brexit;
  • Trump;
  • ISIS;
  • Putin;
  • North Korea;
  • Rudd/Gillard/Abbott/Turnbull.

Northern Territory politics are not so different from all of the above.

Australia and the Northern Territory float in a sea of uncertainty.

The Internet is the ultimate game changer.

Solid political leadership is a pre-requisite for development in the Northern Territory.

Nick Hanigan

Good things about the Northern Territory:

  • opportunity;
  • good government;
  • professionalism of NTPS;
  • Development Consent Authority run by Northern Territory Government;
  • local (NT) control means better management of resources.

What can be improved?

  • Focus on population growth. The Territory needs to achieve a critical mass to realise economies of scale that will open up a wider range of investment and other opportunities. What sorts of development would increase the population of Darwin by 5000?
  • Inpex was/is a huge and valuable project but almost no effect on population growth in the long-term.
  • There is a need for significantly greater involvement of Asia in the Northern Territory and vice versa.

Brad Cunnington

Hierarchy of planning policies – unclear picture of long-term growth path.

Nevertheless the hierarchy of Planning Commission handling the strategic level while Development Consent Authority handles the operational/practical level is a sound one.

The planning system must allow innovation but ensure that growth is not at the expense of quality of overall environment.

Discussion

Ken Parish asked the panel in general and Brad Cunnington in particular to comment on whether the overall planning system was excessively politicised in the Northern Territory e.g. Minister able to intervene and take over decision-making at will and without any real limitation at both Planning Commission and DCA stage, in part by simply deeming a development to be a “major project”. Brad Cunnington agreed that there were scope for clarity and improvement of the power of the Minister e.g. by tightening the definition of “major project”. However many of the difficulties are created by the fact that the Territory has a small economy. Carlo Randazzo observed that it might will be quite difficult to arrive at a clear, workable and flexible definition of “major project” – there are several relevant criteria and their mix may vary from project to project. Ross Finocchiaro agreed but added that he somewhat disagreed with Brad Cunnington that the new hierarchy of planning and development was a positive thing. In his view the previous system was better, clearer, and more efficient than the new one.

As a result of an earlier comment, Ken Parish asked whether, in view of the current glut of office space in the Darwin CBD, there were concerns about the long-standing Northern Territory Government practice of stimulating/providing incentives for the building of new CBD office space by entering into agreements to tenant that space with government departments. Ross Finocchiaro argued that this may well be a valid strategy when there is a shortage of office space or even just a small oversupply, but is potentially very damaging when there is a large oversupply and a large amount of vacant office space as there is at present. It might provide some short-term benefit to the successful builder/developer over the two years of building the new office tower, but would have very negative effects in the broader economy that could last six or seven years. Far from helping the Territory economy such a strategy could actually be damaging it. Nick Hanigan argued that there was a shortage of premium office space in Darwin and the new Paspaley building was designed to fill that niche and offer a new high standard of office accommodation in Darwin.

There was also discussion about building and development in remote communities, at the instance of Bob Gosford, and a number of follow-up questions.