There is significant confluence in the literature that leads one to expect groups of haves and groups of have nots in socio-economic systems within common spatial contexts. Several economic theories suggest economic activity to be concentrated in a few core areas with geographically large 'peripheries' relying on one or two industries for employment and income. In the context of the north of Australia, issues of disparities in socio-economic status between the region and elsewhere in Australia, and also within the region have been highlighted in the literature for some time. This paper discusses the contemporary situation using customised data collected and analysed for 55 river-basin catchments in the Tropical Rivers region of northern Australia to highlight the extent of the haves and have nots problem. A range of spatial economic theories are discussed as theoretical bases for the present day situation and as pointers to revisionist approaches which may address it. Transforming the have nots to improved states of well-being will be a costly and difficult process. Consequently, we argue that factors other than raw incomes and economic production should be reconsidered and re-prioritised by governments as redress to the ongoing 'problem' of the North.