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Water – Northern Australia’s Best Natural Asset

Townsville is in a very good place to capitalise on the use of water in the 21st Century. One natural asset that most developed countries once took for granted is water and as the driest, inhabited continent on Earth, it is something Australia should not be doing.

The southern part of Australia is quite dry and by comparison, Northern Australia is blessed with water. Of course, major parts of Northern Australia endure droughts and we often miss rain when we need it, but the facts are that a lot of rain falls across Northern Australia and, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, we can expect rainfall across Northern Australia to increase in coming decades.

Unfortunately, the counter balance to this is that less rain is anticipated to fall in south west Australia and south-east Australia, meaning Northern Australia has opportunities that may steadily be lost from the southern parts of our nation.

Water is essential for our lifestyle, for sustainable food and fibre production and the processing or manufacturing that food and fibre products require, as well as for extracting and developing natural resources. While arguments can be had regarding how water should be stored, the likelihood is that Northern Australia is in the fortunate position to have sustainable access to water for both lifestyle and for economic pursuits.

The regions most likely to benefit from this opportunity are the Darwin region and the Townsville region (including West to Mount Isa) with the most obvious likely benefits to be found in:

Agriculture
A sustainable water supply provides opportunities for irrigated agricultural development across Northern Australia, including the value adding processes that can enhance product for export. So, both the production and processing of agricultural products may become more viable across Northern Australia in years to come by comparison with Southern Australia and access to Asian markets can be made more efficient given Northern Australia’s proximity. Of course, Darwin and Townsville have the major sea port facilities accompanied by major airport infrastructure.

Hinchinbrook 2018 by Megan MacKinnon

Minerals and Resources
According to Geosciences Australia, Australia is ranked in the top 4 for sources of supply for the 21 primary minerals in demand internationally… and nearly all are situated across Northern Australia. Having a water supply that allows efficient and sustainable extraction, and hopefully processing, enhances Northern Australia’s long-term capacity in the Resource sector. Again, the sea ports of Townsville and Darwin create the best opportunity for viable production of all resources, including the critical elements that are now emerging as the new necessities for high-tech development internationally.

New Energy
Let’s focus on just one source – Hydrogen. Potentially nine litres of water could be required to produce one kilogram of Hydrogen, so the National Hydrogen Strategy indicates up to one third of the amount of water currently used by our Mining Industry could be needed for Hydrogen Production by 2050.

So, the continuing availability of water across Northern Australia creates a series of dynamic opportunities. As each of these opportunities will require access to markets to become viable, Townsville and Darwin are able to benefit most from these commercial opportunities through the 21st-century.

Our region must be focused on the benefit of water and the opportunities it provides. There will likely be significant social and political pressure to transport water from Northern Australia to areas in Southern Australia to maintain industry. This is reasonable and necessary, but the infrastructure developed for this to occur should also be developed to Northern Australia’s advantage.

There is plenty to read and review about the movement of water and how areas that may not have sufficient access to water in future decades will sustain themselves. Transporting water, desalinating sea water and other activities to produce potable water require a sustained high cost input.

With so little investment needed in accepting rain, the production of water supply for Northern Australia is a critical commercial advantage.

Hinchinbrook 2018 by Megan MacKinnon
Craig Stack

Craig Stack

Craig Stack is the Managing Director of Knight Frank’s Townsville, Whitsunday and Mackay offices. Craig leads a team of 43 property professionals who are among the best in what they do in regional Queensland. The Knight Frank team consistently deal with nearly 1,000 North Queensland based businesses every month.