Abstract: Discussion of the development of northern Australia is usually held at this general level. Yet, the most important insight from the analysis is an understanding of the particular opportunities and challenges that three distinct types of regions offer in northern Australia: 1. Northern cities - Northern Australia’s large regional cities (Townsville, Cairns, Darwin, Mackay and Rockhampton) do not share the constraints of the north as a whole and are competitive in their own right. Significant growth is most likely to occur in this group over time regardless of the development approach taken by policy makers. 2. A diverse group of mid-size towns - Amongst the diverse mid-size towns of the north are a mixture of situations driven by location and industry: o For those places close to the northern cities, the barriers to further development are lowered by the existing concentration of people, infrastructure and other economic resources o Mining centres feature some of the strongest economic fundamentals of any region in Australia. Yet, their wider competitiveness profiles are often poor, emphasising how much of the boom’s growth has been driven by outside resources and has not yet translated into broader, sustainable, long term competitive strengths for these regions o Intensive agriculture regions (e.g. Queensland, Katherine and the Ord River Irrigation Area) which have opportunities emerging in Asia, and o Tourist hubs such as Broome, Alice Springs and Whitsunday. 3. The very remote pastoral areas and remote Indigenous communities which include many of the least economically competitive LGAs in the country. A strategy for northern development must explicitly recognise these differences in situation and opportunity to be successful.