By Sarah Byrne

PORT infrastructure is key to the development of Northern Australia’s oil and gas industry, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia’s North West manager William Witham has said.

Speaking at the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia’s “Developing Northern Australia” luncheon, held at the Perth Convention Centre on 14 November, Mr Witham – also known as Chub – said many northern Australian ports were already at capacity.

Mr Witham said there was a need for new port infrastructure to develop the oil and gas industry in northern Australia, to avoid the need to transport fuels south for export.

Speaking as part of a panel, Mr Witham said work in Broome had been delayed by government indecision over this issue.

“There is a massive amount of potential for Broome in investment offshore,” he said.

The panel, which included Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chief operating officer Stedman Ellis, State Member for Pilbara Brendon Grylls, Liveringa Station Beef general manager Brett Blanchett and the chair of the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia, Warren Entsch.

The speakers were discussing the Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia, with many calling on the government to encourage foreign investment in the region by removing unnecessary barriers.

The panel emphasised the importance of building vital infrastructure to support the industry and workers in regional northern Australia.

Retaining workers in regional areas of northern Australia was another key point outlined in the report, with Mr Entsch saying there was a need to develop regional hubs which meet a community’s needs, in order to attract families to these areas.

Other speakers highlighted the importance of the current fly-in, fly-out model, saying that this was of equal importance to improving the quality of infrastructure in regional centres.

“FIFO is part of Australian culture and part of a solution to these towns,” Mr Witham said.