The Northern Territory Budget for 2022-23 was delivered on Tuesday 10 May 2022.
Despite being delivered on the same day as Michael Gunner’s surprise resignation as Chief Minister of NT, the Budget demonstrates a largely business-as usual-approach to the Territory’s finances.
The Budget focuses on long-term growth and confidence in the Territory’s economy. It announces a record investment in remote Aboriginal housing and a $58 million allocation to the tourism industry. These measures follow a $1.4 billion improvement on last year’s net operating balance forecast, which is largely driven by a significant uplift in expected GST revenue and higher conveyance duty receipts (reflecting record increases in the Territory’s residential property market).
While the Northern Territory will return to surplus earlier than previously forecast, debt levels will continue to grow before peaking in 2024-2025 at $9.44 billion.
The Northern Territory Government has announced a $3.28 billion capital works program for 2022-23, with infrastructure payments of $1.7 billion. This program includes a commitment of:
- $301 million for Remote Housing Investment Package works through HomeBuild NT, Room to Breathe and government employee housing;
- $235.8 million for land servicing to support the Remote Housing Investment Package; and
- $150.2 million for ongoing construction and existing infrastructure through the national partnership agreements for remote housing.
The Budget also announces an intention to progress roads and transport investment through the five‑year National Partnership Agreement on Land Transport Infrastructure Projects. Key projects as part of this investment include an $86 million upgrade of Tanami Road to Western Australia, $104 million for gas industry road upgrades and more than $80 million towards works between Alice Springs and Darwin along the Stuart Highway.
The Budget also includes funding to progress the recommendations of the Territory Economic Reconstruction report, including accelerating the Territory’s hydrogen industry and advancing investment opportunities for parks and reserves. In a 3-year project, the Territory Government will upgrade the Gove Port commercial precinct in a bid to expand the Territory’s maritime industry and create jobs. Funding has also been allocated to install electricity lines under Darwin and to implement the Darwin Region Water Supply Infrastructure Program, which includes investments in key dams and pipelines.
Taxes, duties and levies
The Budget makes several changes to revenue policy with effect from 1 July 2022. Key measures include:
- a stamp duty exemption for eligible individuals who acquire newly developed land from a registered building practitioner on which there is, or will be within a specific period, a home constructed by the builder;
- a stamp duty concession of up to $1,500 on the registration of new and second-hand battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. These vehicles will also be exempt from vehicle registration fees; and
- the abolition of the property activation levy, which imposes a charge on vacant land and unoccupied buildings in the Darwin CBD. The Territory Government indicated that the levy has achieved its purpose of incentivising investment in underutilised land and buildings within the Darwin CBD, and so is no longer required to achieve positive change.
Total taxation and mining royalties are expected to decline in 2022-23. However, this decline is partly offset by higher payroll tax receipts, which are expected to increase by $20 million when compared to last year.
Seeking to revitalise the Territory’s tourism industry and capitalise on the opening of international borders, the Budget has announced a ‘Tourism Industry Recovery’ package. As part of this, the Government has allocated funding to the popular light festival Parrtjima, an annual NRL game in the Top End and further support for BASSINTHEGRASS. The Budget also includes investments in international marketing and funding for a third round of the Roadhouse to Recovery grants, which aim to improve the visitor experience at remote, drive focused businesses.
In addition, the Northern Territory Government has announced a number of other spending initiatives. The key measures are:
- implementation of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement, including alternatives to custody in Alice Springs and Groote Eyelandt and other funds for remote courts. Introduced last year, the Aboriginal Justice Agreement is a landmark partnership between the Territory Government, Aboriginal Territorians and Aboriginal organisations which seeks to improve justice outcomes and services for Aboriginal people in the Territory;
- a range of large Territory defence projects, including the RAAF Base Tindal airfield and redevelopment, Larrakeyah Barracks and HMAS Coonawarra upgrades, a US defence bulk fuel storage facility at East Arm, Arafura-class offshore patrol vessels upgrade and a MQ4C Triton forward operating base at RAAF Base Tindal; and
- $13.3 million over five years towards the $43.9 million Bilateral Agreement for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, including $15.4 million for two new Head to Health adult mental health satellite clinics and ongoing funding for the Territory’s first Head to Health centre.