Joint Submission to the Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia

In August 2014 Kimberley to Cape coordinated a joint submission to the Australian Government’s Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia. The 3+ page submission has the support of over 30 organisations from multiple sectors – eg industry, Indigenous, environment, research – and reflects important common ground that can provide the PMC Taskforce and others with a solid platform for policy development and implementation actions across a range of priority areas. Clearly there are still many others to engage with, but we feel this is an important first step!

A copy of the submission is below and a pdf version is available via this link Kimberley to Cape Network Joint Submission to the Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia – FINAL

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input to the Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia.

The Kimberley to Cape[1] Network is a growing group of organisations and individuals from multiple sectors (e.g. Indigenous, agriculture, fishing, mining, tourism, environment) who want to work together to support development and conservation across Northern Australia that maintains natural and cultural values and strengthens communities.It provides an ongoing forum to improve dialogue and understanding across sectors, and to promote future possibilities based on common values and goals. The recent Northern Australian Futures Roundtable2 brought over 50 organisations from eight sectors together and, among other tasks, identified the common elements of a successful future for the North as:

  • a shared vision supported by long term collaborative planning and decision-making
  • greater acceptance of, respect for, and collaboration with, Indigenous people
  • real acknowledgement that cultural, social, environmental and economic outcomes are interdependent rather than mutually exclusive
  • an economy that is diverse, resilient, environmentally sustainable, equitable and based on world-leading industry practices
  • recognition that healthy country supports healthy people.

Therefore to be effective in optimising the development potential of Northern Australia, and in addressing its development needs, the White Paper needs to look beyond food bowls, fossil fuels and traditional large scale infrastructure to a future based on maintaining and enhancing the North’s Indigenous cultures, diverse communities, and globally significant natural environments and resources. It is strategic, economically rational and necessary to build a more diverse and resilient socio-economic fabric based on these outstanding attributes.

Keeping this in mind it is important to clearly articulate in the White Paper the purpose of developing the North (beyond economic goals), who/what development should benefit, and what existing values need to be maintained. We propose that the White Paper adopts the following principles3 in this regard:

  • A resilient, diverse and sustainable economy for Northern Australia is necessary to underpin the wellbeing of its communities, the long-term management of its resources and its contribution to society
  • Northern Australia’s unique, intact and globally-significant natural and cultural values must be recognised, utilised and safeguarded as central to its future
  • Indigenous interests must be recognised, and northern development and socio-economic development need to be pursued together, since neither is sustainable, nor equitable, without the other
  • Development must involve genuine collaboration with local communities and be compatible with local cultures and conditions.

Such core principles should shape the goals of economic development in northern Australia as well as the outcome tests against which success is measured.

We recommend the following supporting actions be embedded in the White Paper and in the delivery of policy priorities consequent to it:

Actions and policy priorities for the White Paper and beyond

  1. Recognise and support strategic and systematic development and conservation planning across northern Australia, in collaboration with communities and at multiple scales (local, regional and landscape), to identify for example areas for development/conservation, values that need to be protected, criteria for landuse compatibility and locations of potential conflict and agreement (ToR Tasks 1 to 3 and Questions A5, B6, B7, B8, D1, D5). Kimberley to Cape is scoping a strategic planning initiative in this regard.
  2. Include in the stocktake of natural assets (ToR Task 1) information on the North’s unique and internationally significant landscape and biodiversity values (and their threats). The comparative advantage of Northern Australia’s intact natural and cultural values has been identified as an increasingly scarce and valuable asset (eg CSIRO Megatrends report) and there is great potential for industries based on safeguarding it (Qs A5, B6, B8, C2, D1). We are pursuing a ‘connected landscape’ initiative to maintain the world’s last large tropical savanna and its outstanding values.
  3. Building on Northern Australia’s natural and cultural comparative advantage, identify the opportunities and support mechanisms required to foster high socio-economic benefit, low ecological footprint industries such as renewable energies, culture based economies, knowledge economies, bioprospecting, ecosystem service-based industries, and multiple forms of tourism (sports, experiential, medical, eco etc) (ToR Task 1, Qs B7, D1, D5). One mechanism being scoped by Kimberley to Cape here is ‘Marketing & maintaining what’s unique about the North’.
  4.  Ensure policy actions use and build on the work of Traditional Owners and Indigenous bodies such as the North Australian Indigenous Experts Forum on Sustainable Economic Development and the Kimberley and Cape York Appropriate Economies Roundtables, and support mechanisms to run and engage with ongoing collaborative processes (ToR Task 2 and Qs B6, B8, D1, D5).
  1. Recognise that the cumulative benefits of local and small to medium scale projects often exceed those of ‘mega’ projects. For proposed large/high impact developments, ensure robust benefit and impact assessments, risk assignments and insurances to avoid degradation and legacy issues (ToR Task 2 and Qs A5, B6,7,8, D1,2,5). Kimberley to Cape is currently investing what this might look like via its ‘Shared policy framework for large developments’ initiative.
  1. In addition to identifying economic and social infrastructure, identify the environmental and cultural infrastructure needed to support and maintain the region, and identify ways to support planning and investment in this (ToR Task 3 and Qs A1, A3, B7, B8, C2).
  2. Heed existing and emerging science, the lessons of the past and elsewhere, the knowledge of local communities (including Traditional Knowledge), the rights of existing users, and climate change, invasive species and other predictions, to better understand and communicate the positive and negative impacts of development options, and to ensure that options work within ecological and cultural boundaries (ToR tasks 1-3, Qs B8, C1,C6, D5). This is especially applicable to the Green Paper’s focus on water and dams.
  3.  Engage Northern Australians, especially its Indigenous people, and others, in a genuine dialogue about the purpose of development, future aspirations, priorities and associated policies, and hear local voices and values. Also ensure development is based on a genuine free, prior and informed consent approach and that sufficient resources and time are allowed for this (ToR Tasks 1-3).

Please find a response to the Green Paper’s six possible policy directions below and information on Kimberley to Cape and the Northern Australian Futures Roundtable in Attachments A and B.

Importantly please note this submission complements, but sits behind, any individual submissions made by signatories.

Kimberley to Cape’s ongoing work will helpfully inform the White Paper and how its policy priorities and actions are best delivered for the benefit of all Australians, particularly those that live and work in the north. For questions or more information regarding this joint submission please contact Dr Clare Taylor (email

We look forward to working with you toward a more equitable, economically resilient and environmentally sustainable future for Northern Australia.

Yours sincerely,


[1] please see Attachment A; 2,3 from the Northern Australian Futures Roundtable, please see Attachment B