The Australian government has appointed a senior executive from ANZ to be the chief executive of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.
Laurie Walker, currently global head of loan product and execution at the Australian lender and former acting head of lending services at Commonwealth Bank, will be based in Cairns and helm the A$5 billion ($3.79 billion; €3.43 billion) government-funded vehicle.
The fund, which has been up and running since July, will provide financing to build transport, energy, water and communication infrastructure in Australia’s north, an area that accounts for 40 percent of the country’s landmass, the government said in a statement. The vehicle’s remit also include the areas of Exmouth and Carnarvon and the local government shires of Meekatharra and Wiluna in Western Australia.
“So far, NAIF has received more than 70 enquiries about project funding,” said Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan. “One project is undertaking due diligence and another 13 are working towards a formal investment proposal. These projects represent a total investment of over A$10 billion.”
In May, the government set up the independent board that has since finalised NAIF’s investment mandate and will make the investment decisions for the fund. The board is chaired by Sharon Warburton, at present a non-executive director at mining companies Gold Road Resources and Fortescue Metals and a director at power utility Western Power, according to her LinkedIn profile.
She is working with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to identify a pipeline of potential projects for NAIF.
Since June, the government has carried out 21 projects and initiatives aimed at developing the country’s north, including the upgrade of road, rail and remote airstrips, according to Canavan. In particular, it has committed almost A$500 million in investments to revamp roads such as the Hann Highway connecting Cairns to Melbourne and the Outback Way east-west route.
On top of an A$1 billion commitment to help protect the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian government is providing over A$920 million in additional funding for projects and investments across northern Australia, Canavan added.