The north is Australia’s last frontier. Here, dreams of development, conservation and indigenous rights collide. Out of this collision may emerge a social, cultural and environmental order which is interesting, novel, sustainable and different to what has happened on colonial frontiers elsewhere. It is unlikely that everyone will like what happens: indeed for some their worse nightmares may be realised. A frustrating feature of the debates about northern development is the lack of clarity about what people want to achieve and what they want to avoid. David Bowman probes this philosophical murk with three dystopian visions: the north as a water supply for southern Australia, a game park for globally endangered large animals, and a repository for the world’s nuclear waste. By using these extreme examples he shows that, despite the collective failure to articulate our visions and anxieties for northern development, most people know what they don’t want.