Business bulletin: 16 July 2020


As our borders open to Australians not from a coronavirus hotspot, it’s more important than ever that we keep doing the right thing to keep Territorians safe.

All Territory businesses must complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan . It’s easy to do online and will help keep the Territory in business.

Businesses with existing COVID-19 safety plans will need to update their management plans to account for the fact that people and/or staff coming from interstate may have to quarantine for 14 days if they are travelling from a hotspot. Plans must be submitted to the Chief Health Officer for approval.

Strict exemptions do apply for essential, critical or urgent items including food, fuel and medical supplies.

If you are planning a trip to an identified COVID-19 hotspot, you should cancel or change your plans to avoid these hotspots.

Remember the guiding principles of our new normal: practice physical distancing and good hygiene, stay home if unwell and get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

For more information visit

We have a COVID-19 safety plane

The Territory’s Economic Reconstruction Commission has released its First Report setting out immediate priorities to capitalise on the Territory’s competitive advantages, attract more private investment and create more local jobs.

The Commissions First Report contains 15 immediate recommendations to help attract and secure investment, making it easier to do business in the Territory.

The Territory Government has accepted all 15 recommendations and will start action on them immediately, with several of the initiatives already underway.

The Commission also recommends the Territory Government focus on growing five main sectors, including:

  1. energy (renewables and gas);
  2. manufacturing (gas and non-gas);
  3. agribusiness;
  4. resources; and
  5. tourism.

The Commission and Team Territory will provide additional recommendations in a Final Report to be delivered in November 2020.

The First Report and recommendations can be accessed here:

Image of the first report cover

The business benefits of Defence spending in the Northern Territory are increasing by the day.

An increasing number of Territory companies are winning lucrative contracts.

Defence is expected to spend $8 billion in the Top End over the next 10 years.

Many of the projects are major and highly specialised, which means they can only be carried out by what are called prime or tier 1 contractors.

Some born-and-bred Territory companies, such as Sitzler and Sunbuild, have won tier 1 contracts.

Many smaller businesses are gaining work by subcontracting.

Griffin Marine Services, a national ship maintenance company that expanded to Darwin three years ago, has secured work on three Navy vessels in the Top End—HMAS Hobart, Stuart and Canberra.

In turn, it has awarded subcontracts to a swag of Territory firms: Enzed, NT Appliance, Greville Fabrications, NMIS and Complete Crane Hire.

Griffin Marine Services hopes to win more work with the building of a new wharf at HMAS Coonawarra and the $400 million ship lift at East Arm, which business leaders hope will turn Darwin into a regional ship repair and maintenance hub.

Griffin Marine Services Northern Territory manager, Martyn Stroud, says subcontracting to Territory companies makes good economic sense.

“It means there is no need for fly in, fly out workers,” he says. “The revenue stays in the Territory and helps make the local economy stronger.

He says the Coonawarra wharf and ship lift will attract larger Navy vessels to Darwin.

Griffin Marine Services, which last year won the NT Chief Minister’s Award for Excellence in the Defence Industry, is building strong relationships with local subcontractors and demonstrating to the Defence Department that the Territory has the skills to carry out major repair and maintenance work.

Mr Stroud said the Australian Industry and Defence Network NT, which is supported by the Territory Government, had been a “great help”.

He encourages Territory companies to use the Industry Capability Network NT Gateway to keep in touch with Defence tenders.

Man standing in front of ocean holding up a ship
Martyn Stroud … ‘the revenue stays in the NT and helps make the local economy stronger’.

A Northern Territory company is exporting one of the world’s most desirable medical products—face masks.

Darwin-based M4 Medical is breaking into the highly-lucrative Japanese and Indian markets with a range of medical products including wound care dressings and anti-viral face masks.

The products are also sold in Australia.

The masks are sold to the health care sector, emergency services, border police, defence, travel companies and aged care facilities, plus members of the general public wanting protection from viruses.

M4 Medical sells two types of face mask.

Australian laboratory tests have shown that one is 99.99 percent effective in destroying SARS and COVID-19, while the other destroys common harmful viruses, such as influenza and coronavirus, within minutes.

M4’s export drive has been given a big boost through a grant under the Territory Government’s Trade Support Scheme COVID19 Quick Response initiative.

Small and medium export businesses were awarded up to $8000 to engage consultants to develop or update their export strategies, coronavirus export recovery plans or digital readiness.

Managing Director Jeff Buteux says the company is using the grant for a digital marketing strategy, development of an e-commerce platform and website modifications.

“It was very easy to apply,” he says. “Certain criteria had to be met—we complied with all of the requirements and made our submission.

“The grant was awarded to update our business website and add SHOPIFY to initiate online purchasing from local and overseas clients more effectively and efficiently.

“Updating the website enables our products to be presented more professionally to the digital environment and undertake online international marketing activities.”

He is confident the digital strategy will make the company’s products more readily available to the market.

Mr Buteux says the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation staff were “exceptionally helpful and responsive” during the grant application.

M4 Medical, which also sells wound care dressings, is in talks with HPA about the Darwin charity manufacturing the masks.

Man with a medical face mask.
M4 managing Director, Jeff Buteux wearing one of his masks.

A Northern Territory exporter is enjoying greater demand for one of the most fascinating and beautiful of products—live coral.

Monsoon Aquatics says orders from overseas have increased because people are isolating at home “with their reef tanks”.

But there is a drawback—the cost of freight and access to it has made meeting the demand difficult.

Company business manager Brooke Kimberley says the Federal Government’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism has helped Monsoon Aquatics get consignments from Darwin to Brisbane for export.

The Northern Territory Government worked with Austrade and the Darwin International Airport to secure freight capacity for Territory exporters under the Federal scheme.

Since April, 14 flights out of Darwin have been supported through the program, which aims to keep high-value, time-sensitive and perishable exports and vital imports flowing during the COVID-19 crisis.

Goods transported from the Territory have mostly been live mud crab, live coral and aquatic species.

The recent Australian Government commitment of an additional $241.9 million to continue the International Freight Assistance Mechanism presents new opportunities for more Territory commodities to reach export markets.

With few international passenger flights, the Territory and Federal governments see restoring global supply chains as vital to maintaining relationships between Australian businesses and their customers around the world.

Monsoon Aquatics, which exports to North America, Europe and Asia, has breeding operations in Darwin, Cairns and Bundaberg,

It employs 11 staff in Darwin, including three on the company vessel San Pasquale.

Brooke says the supported flights out of Darwin have been “incredibly important” in keeping Monsoon Aquatics competitive.

“As a result, we have maintained market share and been able to keep every staff member.

“It has enabled us to keep doing what we love and allowed us to keep our customers happy.

“We are proud that despite the impact of COVID-19, we have been able to continue bringing money into the Territory, and showcasing the amazing environment and renewable natural resources that the Territory has to offer, and providing jobs for Territorians.”

International Freight Coordinator General, Michael Byrne stresses linkages between Federal and State Governments is critically important stitching broken supply chains back together and keeping people in jobs.

“There’s a golden opportunity here for all NT producers to get their goods to new and existing customers overseas. I would urge them to contact their freight forwarder for advice,” Michael Byrne said.

“Territory businesses who rely on airfreight to export their goods, need to continue supporting the flights available to them now because when mango season rolls around you’ll need these flights ready to go.”

Adding to his comments, Byrne also said

“The International Freight Assistance Mechanism is a temporary and emergency measure. Airfreight costs and availability won’t return to pre-COVID levels so it’s vital that businesses begin adjusting to a tougher trading environment while the Government assistance is in place.”

Image of tropical coral.
A jewel of Territory coral being exported by Monsoon Aquatics.

Professional photographer-come-projection mapping and lighting artist Shane Eecen says the COVID-19 has been yin and yang for him.

On the one hand, he lost all of his business overnight. But that prompted him to do something he wanted to do for a long time—learn 4D animation and increase his skill set in projection mapping and light design.

“COVID-19 was devastating in many ways though rewarding in others,” he says. “It is very yin and yang for me—a strange balance of good and bad, light and dark.

“I have been interested in 3D/4D animation for many years. Having that downtime during COVID-19 and having no creative outlet spurred me to sign up for new software and online training.

“That was quite ironic because I had cancelled so many other things.”

Darwin-based Shane did several online short courses, seminars and tutorials.

“It was incredibly challenging, though having already had years of experience in film editing software studio lighting definitely gave me a head start.

“It was incredibly inspiring learning these new skills. And addictive—I could spend 12 hours perfecting a six-second clip.”

The training also turned his sleeping patterns on their head.

Courses were all US and Europe-based, which meant study started about 9pm Darwin time and continued through the night.

Shane, in collaboration with Territory business Fusion Exhibitions, has been commissioned by Activate Darwin to create striking projection mapping displays on buildings and 3D surfaces as part of the drive to rejuvenate the city centre.

He looks forward to the initiative taking off in other parts of Darwin and the Territory and collaborating with other Territory artists of all forms.

Shane moved to the Territory in 1992 after living in Japan and began working at the YMCA in Katherine.

“I loved Katherine—it has such an incredible community spirit.”

He was one of the Territory artists chosen to work on the Bruce Munro: Tropical Light outdoor light exhibition.

Shane, who got his first camera when he was 10 years old and has been professional since 2000, has now invested in high-end large venue laser projectors to continue projection mapping across the NT—an expenditure that he calls “a giant leap of faith”.

He used the projector to show a custom-made virtual fireworks display at the Hilton Hotel on Territory Day.

“I choreographed the fireworks, sounds and music to accompany it.”

The photographer, now delving deep into projection mapping and light design art, says many Territorians have helped him in his career—“I have the NT to thank and all of its people and I look forward to giving back.”

Light display on side of building.
Shane Eecen’s 4D project mapping display on the Hilton in Darwin.

NT Training Awards Gala Dinner - tickets on sale

Last updated: 22 July 2020

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