Talk to most people involved in the Darwin property market, and there’s one word that will inevitably crop up again and again: Inpex.
The gargantuan $12bn offshore gas project has been mooted as the saviour for the Darwin market, which has been in a lull for well over a year. RP Data records overall year-on-year performance as negative growth of 3.3% up to the end of July, with the median house value falling by 3% to $429,500 and median unit value falling 4.1% to $422,500. While not as large as the falls seen in other resource state capitals Perth and Brisbane, it’s still a concerning drop for an area that has been one of Australia’s top performers over the last decade.
However, it appears that activity is picking up.
“Our latest quarterly report showed a drop in median price, but a 26% increase in sales,” says Quentin Kilian, president of the Real Estate Institute of the Northern Territory (REINT. “That’s a promising increase.”
He puts the increased activity down to vendors lowering expectations – and therefore prices. However, the upside is that it’s getting the market moving again. The outlook for the Inpex project is also looking brighter and brighter, with the possibility of the final investment decision being brought forward to October: indeed, it could be even be made by the time you read this. Kilian highlights that the preparatory work that’s already taking shape is very positive - not least the fact that the firm behind the plant has already applied for permission to dredge the Darwin’s harbour.
“You don’t put in applications to dredge harbours unless you’re very confident,” adds Kilian. “Of course, it could still all come down in a heap if the final investment decision doesn’t go our way, but the signs are very positive.”
Inpex isn’t the only resources project ramping up, either. There are a number of other oil and gas projects in the pipeline, such as the Sunrise joint venture project, the Blacktip gas project, and developments in the Kitan oil field. There are also projects taking place in Darwin itself, with the proposed development of a dedicated marine centre to service the offshore projects in the Timor Sea.
The announcement of a new centre for a $6m oil and gas training centre at the Charles Darwin University’s Casuarina campus is also a positive step for Darwin: the centre will be a ‘cutting edge research and training facility that will support the developing sector’. The project has garnered the support of BHP Billiton CEO Marius Kloppers, who has commented that the centre could see Darwin become the global base for oil and gas training.
The Territory’s mining industry also remains robust, with gold, phosphate and iron ore mining taking place to varying degrees throughout the state and fuelling growth in regional centres such as Katherine and Tennant Creek – with a number of exploratory projects ramping up too.
“I’m a proud Territorian, so I may be biased – but I honestly believe the Territory has one of the best potential resources boom markets in the world,” adds Kilian. “There’s a long way to go, but the outlook is certainly very healthy.”
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