NT regional economic profiles

Central Australia

The Central Australia region is the geographical centre of Australia. 

Desert land covers 600,000km² and 40% of the Northern Territory (NT). 

The Central Australia region contributes an estimated 18% ($2.9 billion) to the Northern Territory (NT) Gross State Product.

Alice Springs, the second largest town in the NT, with a population of roughly 28,000, services a total regional population of 41,000. 

Alice Springs is the major economic, business and service hub for the region, and also services parts of South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.

The economy is sustained by mining, tourism and primary industries and is underpinned by government funding for regional service delivery and defence. 

A large percentage of the Central Australia region’s population live in outlying communities including the Yulara township, which provides accommodation and services for the tourism industry at Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park. 

Yulara's population of just over 1,000 people is increased by visitor numbers to around 300,000 each year.

Other major remote centres in the Central Australia region include Ntaria, Yuendumu and Papunya, with the rest of the population widely spread across the region in smaller communities, outstations, pastoral properties and mining operations. 

These residents depend on Alice Springs for supplies and essential services.

Alice Springs Economic Profile - at a glance (387.9 kb) 

Barkly

The Barkly region covers 283,606km², which is 21% of the NT.

The town of Tennant Creek has a population of around 3,500 people and is the service hub for the region. 

The Barkly region also includes the major remote towns of Elliott and Ali Curung.

The Barkly economy is largely dependent on mining. It is also supported by a number of other industries including tourism, pastoral, construction, retail, and community and government services.

The Alice Springs to Darwin railway connects the Top End of the NT to the rest of Australia through the Barkly region, opening the area to tourism and providing opportunities for economic growth.

Tennant Creek economic profile - at a glance (374.3 kb)

Tennant Creek and Barkly region strategic and action plan 2014 to 2016 (1.1 mb)

Big Rivers

The Big Rivers region covers 359,203km², which is about one-quarter of the NT and is a similar size to Germany.

Katherine is the key regional centre with a population of around 18,000. 

The region also includes towns such as Pine Creek, Mataranka, Larrimah, Timber Creek, Kalkarindji and Borroloola as well as many Aboriginal communities including Ngukurr, Barunga, Wugularr, Jilkminggan, Lajamanu and Kybrook.

The region has a broad-based economy with agriculture, mining, tourism, defence and government service delivery.

Population is stable and is expected to rise to around 22,460 by 2021. The average age is 28-years-old. 

Around 52% are Indigenous or Torres Strait Islanders. The Indigenous population is around 20% of Katherine’s total population and around 60% of the non-urban population.

There are roughly 911 businesses in Katherine, most of which employ between one and five people. 

Most businesses are affected by the seasonal cycle with the weakest trading period from January to March and the strongest from April to September.

Katherine economic profile - at a glance (1.2 mb) 

Katherine and Big Rivers strategic plan (458.8 kb) 

Proposed indigenous joint ventures for the Katherine region (3.8 mb)

East Arnhem

The East Arnhem region is one of the most remote regions in Australia, covering roughly 33,596km² in the north-eastern corner of the NT.

The region has a population of 16,070 (as at 2011), living in and around the main centre of Nhulunbuy and the major remote towns of Alyangula, Angurugu and Umbakumba (Groote Eylandt), Ramingining, Milingimbi, Galiwinku, Yirrkala and Gapuwiyak. 

Nhulunbuy is a service hub for the more remote locations in the region, including around 100 homelands and outstations.

The region supports the fishing, mining and tourism industries.

East Arnhem Economic Profile - at a glance (478.8 kb) 

Tiwi Islands

Located roughly 80km north of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands boast rich cultural history and economic diversity with good potential for future growth. 

The Tiwi Islands are made up of two main islands, which are Bathurst and Melville. 

Melville Island is the second largest Australian island after Tasmania. The geographic area of the Tiwi Islands is over 3,000km².

Indigenous Australian art, tourism, forestry plantations and mineral sand mining (with exports to China) are some of the locally generated internationally recognised industries on the islands. 

There are also retail opportunities, construction ventures, and community and government service provision supporting the local economy. 

Australian Rules Football generates national and international attention, with several Tiwi Islands players exported to the ‘big league’. 

The strong water flows in the Apsley Strait, which separates the two main islands, present opportunities for future power generation.

Tiwi Islands Economic Profile - at a glance (2.6 mb)

For more information on the Central Australia region see www.bushtel.nt.gov.au.

Last updated: 12 October 2017