The $1.4 billion Project Sea Dragon, which is due to produce 200,000 tonnes of tiger prawns (Penaeus monodon) a year has yet to secure a key loan from the federally-funded $5 billion North Australia Infrastructure Facility [NAIF].
“Unfortunately, it’s that private sector side of things where [the projects] haven’t been able to get the cash or
they’ve hit a contractual dispute, which is frustrating,” Michael Gunner, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, told Darwin radio station Mix FM this week.
The project is split across five sites in the Northern Territory and Western Australia and is set to include 10,000 hectares of production ponds. Seafarms, which operates the project, describes itself as “shovel ready”, following eight years of research, planning and development. However, despite more than $110 million already being invested in the project, it is still reliant on further funding.
“They still haven’t got that NAIF loan, which is extremely frustrating,” Gunner said.
NAIF provides loans for projects that yield significant public benefits in a region known for its challenging geography and climate. Seadragon is seen as a suitable candidate due to the long-term economic opportunities it is due to generate, including $200 million worth of tender work in the Northern Territory during 2020 alone.
Gunner said it was particularly frustrating given that the Australian Federal Government, as well as the governments of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, had funded key infrastructure initiatives, including establishing new roads in remote parts of the region, to help support the project.
“Now the whole point of NAIF is to accept risk, or risk at a higher level [than] an ordinary bank, and so it’s just extremely frustrating,” he said.