WHO SHOULD READ THIS

  • Private and public sector proponents of economic infrastructure projects for Northern Australia, including those in the resources, agribusiness, tourism and medical science sectors.

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • The NAIF Act has been passed, its Board has been selected, and, pending commencement of the NAIF on 1 July 2016, project finance applications can be submitted now to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

  • Determine if your project complies with the Investment Mandate, and if so, start preparing your proposal for project finance now.

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Act 2016 (NAIF Act) has now been passed, and its Board has been selected. The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) will formally commence activities on 1 July, but project financing applications can be submitted now to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC).

Background

The NAIF is an initiative of the Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia (White Paper). The NAIF will offer up to $5 billion in concessional loans to encourage and complement private sector investment in economic infrastructure in Northern Australia that would not otherwise be built.

The NAIF is required to act in accordance with the Minister’s directions, which are known as the Investment Mandate. The Minister responsible for the NAIF is the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP.

See our previous Focus article on the White Paper here and our Focus articles on the NAIF here and here.

The Board, the role of EFIC and the Investment Mandate

Ms Sharon Warburton (WA) has been appointed Chair of the NAIF. Among other roles, Ms Warburton has been a non-executive director of Fortescue Metals Group, Wellard Limited, and Western Power, and was last year appointed to the Takeovers Panel.

Although the other Board members will not commence in their roles until 1 July, Ms Warburton will commence working now with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and EFIC to identify a pipeline of potential projects so that decisions on project finance can be made following the establishment of NAIF on 1 July.

Therefore project proponents should commence discussions with EFIC now regarding their project finance proposals, so as to avoid delay.

The other Board members will be:

  • Mr Barry Coulter (NT), a director of Northern Territory Airports Pty Ltd, who has formerly held roles as a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, Chairman of Darwin Port Authority, Chairman of Airnorth and Executive Chairman of Sherwin Iron Ore Limited
  • Mr Justin Mannolini (WA), a lawyer and investment banker, who has formerly held roles as an executive director of a major Australian investment bank and as a partner in one of Australia’s largest law firms
  • Mr Khory McCormick (Qld), a partner at a major Australian law firm and a member of a number of boards, including Vice-President of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration and Member of the International Chamber of Commerce Australia
  • Dr Sally Pitkin (Qld), a lawyer and a non-executive director of a number of major companies including Billabong, Super Retail Group and Star Entertainment Group. Dr Pitkin is also President of the Queensland division of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and an adjunct professor of the UQ Business School, and has previously served as deputy chairman of EFIC and as a partner at a major Australian law firm, among other roles
  • Mr Bill Shannon (Qld), a chartered accountant, company director and farmer, who has formerly held roles as mayor of Cassowary Coast Regional Council in far north Queensland, director of Advance Cairns and member of the Governance Institute of Australia, and
  • Ms Karla Way-McPhail (Qld), a Chief Executive Officer of a number of northern Australian mining and training firms, and a former board member of the Resources Industry Council Central Queensland and the Capricornia Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, Ms Way-McPhail was the recipient of the prestigious Hudson Private and Corporate Award at the Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Awards. She is currently Patron of the Mining Womens’ Support Group.

The Investment Mandate for the NAIF comprises the following mandatory criteria:

  • the proposed project involves construction or enhancement of economic infrastructure
  • the proposed project will be of public benefit
  • the proposed project is unlikely to proceed, or will only proceed at a much later date, or with a limited scope, without financial assistance
  • the proposed project is located in, or will have a significant benefit for northern Australia
  • the NAIF’s loan monies are not the majority source of debt funding
  • the loan will be able to be repaid, or refinanced, and
  • the project includes an Indigenous engagement strategy.

There are also two non-mandatory criteria, namely that the proposed project is seeking financing from the NAIF for an amount of $50 million or more and the project has been identified through a previous Commonwealth, State or Territory assessment process, pipeline, or priority list.

Changes made to NAIF Bill, eligible project area and activities

The headquarters for NAIF will be in Cairns.

The catchment area for eligible infrastructure projects has now increased to include Exmouth and Carnarvon and the local government shires of Meekatharra and Wiluna, in Western Australia.

The NAIF Act has also made some changes to what was proposed in the Bill. Among these are that the NAIF will no longer have the benefit of Crown immunity, and the NAIF Act has clarified that, although the deadline for the NAIF to decide to grant financial assistance is 30 June 2021, this will not prevent the NAIF from deciding before that date to provide financial assistance after that date, or from varying the terms of financial assistance that has been granted before that date.

Further information regarding the NAIF can be found at the website here and further information regarding the board members can be found here. If you would appreciate any assistance in submitting project finance applications, please let us know.