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NT Budget still in the red but better than expected due to extra GST revenue

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The Northern Territory Government has unveiled its 2021 Budget which shows improvements in debt and deficit levels mostly due to a rise in GST revenue.

The Chief Minister says while the budget did not escape the national impact of the coronavirus crisis, the fiscal position is recovering stronger than expected.

The Territory’s net debt is estimated to be $9 billion in the next financial year– an improvement of more than $1 billion compared to the last budget, with a $1.4 billion deficit expected.

Michael Gunner says the Territory’s budget position has improved as a result of stronger own-source taxation and revenue, higher GST collections, and the effect of long-term savings measures.

“Our stronger recovery has boosted taxation and mining royalties by an estimated $186 million over four years,” he says.

“GST is also higher than previously forecast, reflecting the broader national recovery.”

Mr Gunner says the budget grabs the opportunities of the future, and maximizes the Territory’s potential.

“Budget 2021 is about continuing our hard work to deliver on the Territory’s potential – with new people, new industries and new jobs,” he says.

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Budget break-down

It includes $40 million for the COVID-19 response, with $20 million to maintain the public health response at hospitals, testing clinics and quarantine facilities and $5 million for the logistical costs of delivering the vaccine.

To help spark new investment in existing and emerging industries, $120 million is being injected into the Local Jobs Fund over two years.

The Fund partners with investors through concessional loans and co-investment equity to create more local jobs.

“Already, it has helped set up a massive expansion of the aircraft storage industry in Alice Springs...it’s partnering with Vocus to deliver a Territory-wide upgrade to our fibre optic cable network,” Mr Gunner says.

The Budget also allocates more than $1.6 billion for job-creating infrastructure and 60 per cent of it is going to regional and remote areas.

About $15 million will be spent over five years for planning works for population and industry growth, new land releases and the establishment of a new infrastructure body.

“This includes making more than 5,000 new residential lots available for the creation of two new suburbs near Palmerston – Holtze and Kowandi,” Mr Gunner says.

He says there are also plans to release land in Katherine east and Tennant Creek and $8.3 million to further expand Kilgariff Estate in Alice Springs, while audits of available land have been earmarked for Elliott, Mataranka and Borroloola.

The government’s ‘Tourism Comeback Plan’ includes $5 million for more Territory tourism vouchers, $5 million to attract more interstate visitors and $12 million to extend the Visitor Experience Enhancement Program, which supports local operators to upgrade their offerings.

There is also $17 million to support and grow major festivals and events and ongoing funding for the Territory’s parks and Aboriginal rangers.

The government has allocated $20 million to sustain police numbers across the Territory and committed further funding to extend community safety initiatives in Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs and to expand school-based policing.

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