Darwin – the capital city of the Northern Territory – is a unique place, with unique people. Business World Australia has been presented with the opportunity to talk to the two people who know just how special a place it is, Lord Mayor Katrina Fong Lim, and the City of Darwin CEO Brendan Dowd.
“I was born in Darwin, and it really is one of the best places in the world to live, because it has such a great lifestyle,” says Lord Mayor Fong Lim. “We have fantastic and great predictable weather, so much so that you can set your watch by it. We really have a great environment life right outside our doorstep.”
When describing what makes Darwin unique, the Lord Mayor also points to the cosmopolitan feel of the city, along with its well-developed multicultural heritage. “The city benefits from the mix of cultures in such a fantastic way. A lot of our community events are, in fact, multicultural events. I think people really appreciate that part of our city.”
“I think it is a place of tremendous opportunity,” adds Dowd. “It’s growing, it’s developing, it’s open and it is engaging. We aim to provide the best for our people and in doing so there is a lot of growth opportunities for young people and for people that are in various stages of their careers.” Added to this, Dowd says, is the benefit of Darwin’s proximity to Asia. He says the City of Darwin acts as a gateway, and provides for unique opportunities to Australians.
Take a trip and stay
Tourism is one of the most important industries for the area, and Lord Mayor Fong Lim says there is a lot the city can offer travellers. “There is a great night life, great restaurants, and events. All those things that go with a great tourist experience,” she says.
She adds history also plays a large role in the appeal to the area. During WWII, around 10,000 troops were stationed in Darwin as a measure to protect Australia’s coastline. This also made it a prime target for Japanese Warplanes. The first attack came on February 19th, 1942, when 188 planes bombed the fledgling city. It was the same fleet that had previously attacked Pearl Harbour, but they dropped far more ordnances on the area then they had in that attack.
“February 19th is now a national day of observance, so this is part of our rather large cache of World War II history,” explains Lord Mayor Fong Lim. “We also just celebrated the 150 years of John McDouall Stuart, and his completion of his treks through the centre of Australia.”
Darwin’s mix of history, culture and environment makes it a fantastic option for tourists. Additionally, for both residents and visitors, the city has many family centred activities on the calendar, and also offers a wave pool and waterparks.
International tourism did fall for a brief time during the Global Financial Crisis, but both the Lord Mayor and Dowd have seen those numbers begin to pick up in the aftermath. Even when these numbers dropped, they found that domestic tourism rose, with many who had planned international trips going out of their way to see their own land. “We are very committed to the tourism industry at the City Council, it is something that needs to be continually monitored and supported. We provide financial support to local tourist information centres, so that people have as much information as they need to have a really good time in the city,” says Lord Mayor Fong Lim.
Attracting new residents is also important to a growing city, and especially in Darwin. “It’s opportunity that brings people here. Right across the spectrum there are lots of opportunities to engage in many different lifestyles and activities. We have an extremely multicultural but welcoming community,” says Dowd. “For those looking for a career, there is a whole array of different types of industries and sectors and different experiences you can gain by coming to live, work and play in Darwin.”
The Lord Mayor also points to the layout of the city as an advantage. “Anywhere is only ten minutes away in Darwin,” she says. This is good for planning day trips and managing commute to and from work.
The business of the future
Businesses seem to thrive in the Darwin area because of the infrastructure in place that supports their growth and development. Mayor Fong Lim says that there have also been aggressive moves by Council and Government to encourage business development in the Northern Territories and Darwin itself. “The opportunity to open up trade between Australia and Asia is obviously right here on our doorstep, it is an amazing time to be a business operating in Darwin.”
The Adelaide Railways which opened in 2001 have set Darwin up as a prime port of call for industry. The Darwin International Airport also contributes to a lively influx of corporate business. The port system they have in place also gives them access to the fastest growing economy in the world. The Lord Mayor says that they have developed the logistics and supply chain systems needed to support the shipping industry, and it seems to be a major source of pride for the city.
Katrina Fong Lim points to the Inpex Oil and Gas project, and to the fact that the investment in this has already provided positive results in the City and the surrounds. “The build-up of that project has commenced, and will go on for another four or five years. The plant will come online at that point and there will be export dollars coming in from Japan.”
With Australia’s only tropical university, Charles Darwin University, the city has developed extensive specialities in oil and gas; graduates from this school are ready and able to join the ranks of this flourishing industry. The Lord Mayor also applauds Charles Darwin University for acting as a centre for researching indigenous issues, as well as tropical medical issues.
Opportunity and choice
“This Council has been committed for a very long time in developing an environmentally sustainable city. It is very big commitment,” says Dowd. “This is reflected in the terms of the wishes of the community. They really want to preserve the pristine environment, and make sure that the authorities, territorial and city, respond in a sympathetic way to the environment.” This initiative has been highly successful. They are the first tropical city in Australia to have an emission capturing device at their processing plants.
“I want Darwin to be a tropical livable city that provides opportunity and choice in our community. That recognises that we are in the tropics and we do have extreme weather events and we need to be developing our city in recognition of that,” says Lord Mayor Fong Lim. “I also believe that a community should have a lot of choices in the way they live and how they get to where they need to go in their lives. We want to be all things to most people.”