NAIF steps in to support economic recovery of key Queensland university

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) has agreed to provide economic support to one of Queensland’s top universities.

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The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) has agreed to provide economic support to one of Queensland’s top universities.

CQUniversity Australia is the latest recipient of support from NAIF, with a loan of up to $76 million made available to fund a package of capital expenditure programs at the university over two years.

NAIF has stepped in with the financial assistance after CQU, which offers courses to over 36,000 students and operates eight campuses in northern Australia, projected a shortfall in future revenue, caused by a sudden drop in international students over the COVID-19 pandemic. This left a range of capital expenditure including a significant digital infrastructure program, at the university at risk of being scrapped.

NAIF quickly stepped in to arrange a loan to allow the university to preserve a range of critical capital expenditure program for FY21 and FY22.

The university forecasts that maintaining its plans for capital expenditure will contribute to supporting up to 187 direct and 287 indirect jobs within the Northern Australia region over a two year period, with a further 200 jobs saved. The total public benefit over the two years is forecast at $72 million.

NAIF CEO Chris Wade said the loan was another example of how NAIF has the ability to move quickly and provide innovative financing solutions to help support northern Australian business’s as to assist in their recovery from financial shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“NAIF sees itself as being a key partner in the development of northern Australia. Being a partner means being there at times of need which is why we quickly looked to assist CQU when they told us about their financial challenges.

“This deal is an example of NAIF being flexible and responsive, and I congratulate our deal team for the speed at which they constructed a loan that will help one of our key regional employers through these challenging economic times.”

The loan to CQU means NAIF’s loans to Queensland projects total nearly $1 billion. CQU is the second Queensland university supported by NAIF. James Cook University’s Technology Innovation Complex and new student accommodation is also being part-funded through NAIF loans.

Since starting operations in August 2016, NAIF’s total loan approvals across northern Australia stands at $2.4 billion. Working with State and Territory governments, nearly $1 billion of NAIF deals have subsequently closed, with funds available to be drawn as required by proponents.

NAIF’s mandate was recently extended by the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia until 2026. The extension will allow NAIF to deliver more investment into the region and play a critical role in the Commonwealth Government’s broader agenda on economic development in the north.

CQUniversity’s Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Nick Klomp said that the support of the NAIF loan would allow the University to deliver on activity that was planned prior to the impacts of COVID-19.

“CQUniversity plays a very important role within the communities we serve.

“It is vital, that CQUniversity is able to deliver on critical infrastructure projects in order to support our regions in the post-COVID economic recovery process. This loan will allow us to do that.

“Investing in capital projects creates jobs and opportunities and helps to ensure we can continue to deliver exceptional services, training and education to our students,” said Professor Klomp.

A recent independent report revealed that the University contributes $1.8 billion annually to the Northern Australia economy, according to the University.