A new study has found air quaility in Mackay is sitting just within World Health Organisation standards, raising conservationists’ concerns.
A new study has found air quaility in Mackay is sitting just within World Health Organisation standards, raising conservationists’ concerns. Tony Martin

More to north than dams, mines and farms, says institute

THE debate over development of north Australia must move beyond simple solutions of dams, mines and farming, the Regional Australia Institute has urged.

A report from the institute released on Thursday urged the Coalition's white paper on northern Australia to look beyond the "polarised debate of the past 50 years".

RAI chief executive Su McCluskey said the institute's regional competitiveness index showed different approaches were essential in different areas.

It found three chief types of communities in the north - cities, such as Mackay, Rockhampton, Darwin and Cairns; industry hubs, such as Charters Towers and Mt Isa; and other "very remote regions".

The paper found each category had its own challenges to development, but the key for all areas was essential economic diversity, so towns relying on a mine or only agriculture, could source other incomes.

"Northern Australia has too often been the recipient of one-off strategies that may be positive in isolation, but add up to little long-term change," Ms McCluskey said.

"This will be a core challenge for the government, which has the opportunity to revolutionise the north and the role it plays in Australia's future."

Coalition north Australia taskforce committee chairman Warren Entsch has previously put the call out for all ideas from stakeholders.

He previously said he believed dams, mining and agriculture were essential industries, but other sectors like alternative energy could play a significant role in the north.

The government has promised to bring forward a white paper on the issue within 12 months



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