This paper calls for heightened attention to the question of how economic interests interact with one another at a regional scale. All too often in northern remote Australia, the paucity of local private sector activity and the minimal capital base of regions encourage the view that large-scale external investment (usually associated with resource development) is a regional economic panacea. There is much to be said in favour of large-scale resource development: it generates employment and economic activity, contributes to national wealth, and at a regional scale, is often accompanied by significant infrastructure investment. But for regionally embedded actors, notably including indigenous people who may possess substantial land assets but may be financially poor, such investments usually do not deliver lasting benefits. For people in these situations the more vital question often appears to hinge on the extent to which resource development is sympathetic to wider regional aspirations, including the protection of country, self-determination, job opportunities and local wealth generation. Researchers and policy-makers should give priority to such indicators of local economic interactivity and inclusion over and above the more standard ones based on gross measures of regional product.
The concerns of this paper echo those of the literature on 'resource enclave economies' of developing countries, particularly in Africa and the South Pacific, where the economic flows associated with mines dominate adjacent regions and create economic, social and political dependence.