PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Reforms to speed up investment approvals for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) have been introduced into Federal Parliament.
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said the reforms would extend the operations of the government’s A$5-billion NAIF for a further five years until the end of June 2026.
“Our changes will provide NAIF with more flexibility and new investment tools, as well as widening the scope of projects eligible for funding and strengthening its governance,” Pitt said.
“The government is determined to unlock further potential across northern Australia and to ensure the north further increases its contribution to jobs growth and economic activity.
“The changes will empower NAIF to make faster lending decisions for appropriate projects, and increase NAIF’s risk appetite so it can respond more appropriately to the economic challenges following the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The reforms will also strengthen NAIF’s governance, allow NAIF to make strategic equity investments in some projects, and will expand the scope of projects which will be able to apply for NAIF funding.”
The reforms outlined in the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Amendment (Extension and Other Measures) Bill 2021 address the recommendations of a 2020 statutory review of NAIF which consulted widely on how NAIF could best contribute to economic development in the north.
Assistant Minister for Northern Australia Michelle Landry said the government had listened to stakeholders and communities across northern Australia, who said that while NAIF was an important investment vehicle, more could be done to improve its processes.
“Communities in northern Australia made it clear they wanted NAIF to be more nimble and agile, and ready to respond,” Landry said.
“We are determined to streamline NAIF’s operations and sharpen its investment focus, to make sure it can continue to support development opportunities across the north for the good of all Australians.”
Detailed changes in the Bill include measures for faster lending, by giving NAIF the option to lend directly to project proponents in certain circumstances, simplifying the lending process and cutting the administrative burden, and expanding eligibility to allow NAIF to invest in additional areas such as equipment purchase or leasing, training, or the expansion of existing operations.
The amendments would also facilitate the NAIF’s use of equity investments, equipping the NAIF with a diverse range of financial tools to assist projects, and would strengthen governance, including the appointment of a government representative to the NAIF board and including a board member with experience in Indigenous development.
Since it started operations in 2016, NAIF has made investment commitments of over A$2.8-billion to 24 projects.