The Northern Territory Government is seeking proponents for the development of an agricultural project which will provide new farming land by extending irrigation channels from Western Australia into the Northern Territory.

The Ord Stage 3 irrigated agricultural development aims to provide 14,500 hectares of new farming land by extending the irrigation channels.

NT Primary Industry and Fisheries Minister, Gary Higgins, said the Northern Territory Government and the Northern Territory Land Corporation has begun a request for proposal (RFP) process seeking private sector proponents to facilitate the development of the Spirit Hills Pastoral Lease in Ord Stage 3.

“Ord Stage 3 is an extension of the iconic Ord Irrigation Scheme, with Stages 1 and 2 located in Western Australia, and will provide investors with the opportunity to develop premium crops for global markets,” Mr Higgins said.

“This project will help diversify the Northern Territory economy, create jobs for local people, boost the region, provide economic opportunities for indigenous people and leverage off investment in Ord 1 and 2.

“Ord Stage 3 provides an opportunity for investors which are seeking to develop large greenfield agricultural projects in north Australia.”

Mr Higgins said the proponent would be responsible for negotiating with native title holders, building the necessary irrigation channel infrastructure and seeking all of the necessary approvals, including sacred site and environmental approvals, to develop the Ord Stage 3 irrigated agricultural area.

Ord Stage 3 was declared an NT Government major project in 2012, with a project team established in the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries to work alongside the Western Australian Government.

“Projects of this size take a long time to develop and the Territory Government has consulted with native title holders, the Northern Land Council and with local stakeholders in Kununurra as well as the WA and Commonwealth Governments to guide management decisions to progress this area for irrigated agriculture,” Mr Higgins said.

“We now consider that a proponent led development is the best option and will put the native title holders in direct contact with the end developer, enabling a better outcome for both parties.

“The Northern Territory Government has a vision for more agricultural precincts in the NT – that’s why we’re investing in soil and water studies like the recently released Larrimah studies.

“Ord Stage 3 is strongly aligned with the Commonwealth Government’s Developing Northern Australia White Paper and the Northern Territory Government’s Economic Development Strategy and we believe it will deliver huge benefits.”

The lodgement date for the request for proposal is the end of May 2016, with negotiations with preferred proponents occurring in June 2016 and the execution of the project agreement scheduled for July 2016.

The successful proponent will enter into a development agreement with the Northern Territory Land Corporation and the NT Government and is required to develop a detailed plan for the future use of the Pastoral Lease, including the development of the Ord Stage 3 irrigated agriculture area.

The Chairman of the Northern Territory Land Corporation, Peter Blake, said, “The Corporation has held the Spirit Hills Pastoral Lease since late 1994, for the purpose of developing Ord Stage 3 and the proposed extension of the Keep River National Park.

“The Corporation supports the request for proposal process, which will result in the successful proponent progressing this important development for the Northern Territory.”

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