SOUTH Australia’s country councils have joined forces to demand a better deal from whichever party wins the upcoming State election.
Three points are key to the Alliance of South Australian Regional Councils’ manifesto: population growth, increased government investment and stronger government ties to regional areas.
In particular, the alliance called for 30 per cent of South Australia’s population to be housed in regional centres such as Murray Bridge, up from 18pc; for the establishment of a “Royalties for Regions” program similar to those in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia to improve infrastructure; and for 30pc of State public servants to be based outside Adelaide.
Mid Murray Mayor Dave Burgess said candidates from all parties had been put on notice.
“Regional centres don’t happen by luck; they are the product of a proactive, long-term commitment to decentralisation,” he said.
“Regional South Australia already contributes $20 billion towards the State’s economy, more than half a million jobs and 50 per cent of exports, (but) we have so many opportunities to increase this contribution.
“We want the next State Government to foster confidence in our regions and support the enabling infrastructure and services that help build strong and vibrant communities where people want to live, work and do business.”
Murray and Mallee councils added their particular stamp to the campaign with a list of more specific demands, including a review of local bus services, more action to reduce salinity in Lake Albert and access to training courses via video link.
They also asked for streamlined development rules, improved tourism planning, identification of new markets for regional produce, continued funding for emergency management and health services, and extra money for waste management and sporting facilities.
1. Growing regional centres
There are 29 regional centres with a population of more than 30,000 in Australia, but none in South Australia.
“Our regional cities and towns offer an affordable, safe and relaxed lifestyle with a strong sense of community,” ASARC said.
“There is existing capacity in our schools and hospitals, affordable housing, job opportunities and a high level of local support for population growth.”
2. Strengthening regional investment
Western Australia has a $6 billion, mining-based Royalties for Regions program; Victoria has a $1 billion Regional Growth Fund; and Queensland has a Royalties for Regions program worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Conversely, State Government capital investment into regional South Australia has declined over the past decade,” ASARC said.
3. Reconnecting with regional communities
“The more the public service is centralised into Adelaide, the more policy decisions are formed through a ‘city’ lens and the more connection with the country is lost,” ASARC said.
“The government is losing touch with the impact of their decisions on regional areas, and is perpetuating a lack of confidence in regional areas.”
Murray and Mallee priorities
- Faster State Government finalisation of development plan amendments and provision of dedicated funding for regional development
- An audit of Murray and Mallee passenger transport services to identify potential for improvements
- A shift in jobs from manufacturing to food production, and identification of new overseas markets
- Population and economic growth in Murray Bridge
- Implementation of tourism destination action plans for the Murraylands and Riverland
- Continued skills development programs to support workforce participation and productivity, continued development of Murraylands and Riverland education precincts, and access to training via video link where face-to-face training is unavailable
- Implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and action to improve salinity levels in Lake Albert
- Adequate and continued funding for the Murray and Mallee Local Government Association's zone emergency management committee
- Release of Solid Waste Levy funds to allow timely implementation of local waste management (rubbish and recycling) plans
- A guarantee no country resident will be disadvantaged in access to emergency and clinical medical services
- Increased funding for sporting and recreational facilities