Tuesday, May 28, 2024

SA budget ‘a mixed bag’ for councils

The Local Government Association of South Australia (LGASA) has welcomed Labor’s first State Budget as a new government with some reservations – embracing significant spend in some key service areas while highlighting missed opportunities to support and partner with councils.

LGASA President, Angela Evans (pictured) said councils welcomed State Government spending on housing and health in regional areas and looked forward to a boost to the tourism sector from several smaller budget measures.

“While a mixed bag for local councils, one thing this State Budget demonstrates is a strong commitment to improve regional medical services and the health system, which our members will welcome,” Mayor Evans said.

“There’s about $40 million allocated for regional hospital and emergency department upgrades in Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Kangaroo Island, Mount Gambier and Keith,” Mayor Evans said. 

“We know the quality of hospital facilities available in regional areas is one of the key factors in attracting medical staff to regional areas, so we are hopeful this announcement will make a real difference.

“Help for first-home buyers who build or buy a newly-constructed home was important and the sector is supportive of the government’s decision to build 400 new public houses. 

“Councils are acutely aware of the challenges of homelessness, and we need action to support those in need. 

“In time, we would like to see the State Government introduce some more targeted measures that address the unique circumstances present in regional areas.”

Mayor Evans said border communities would welcome a new Cross-Border Commissioner, while regional councils would be buoyed by measures to increase domestic tourism.  

“The way South Australians have embraced holidaying at home in recent years has provided a vital boost to regional communities, so we’re pleased to see the State Government capitalising on that trend,” she said. 

“Measures such as support for nature-based tourism and the continuation of the Great State vouchers will ensure continued travel to regional areas and an ongoing focus on the visitor economy.” 

“I am concerned over cuts to the Greener Neighbourhoods and Greening Adelaide’s Heart program, as this won’t help achieve the State Government’s own targets for increased tree canopy cover.

“Councils invest millions of dollars every year providing and maintaining trees in streets and public parks, because we know increasing green cover is essential to liveability and responding to climate change. 

“I will be seeking further engagement from the State Government on this matter to continue important work on this objective – including through an independent review of planning legislation and the 30-Year Plan for Greater Adelaide. 

Mayor Evans also expressed disappointment that specific requests from the sector had not been actioned. 

“We had written to the Treasurer on behalf of the sector and sought an immediate investment in the state’s jetties and restoration of indexation for public libraries, which need attention to support our communities.” 

“Jetties and libraries are essential to the economic and social fabric of so many communities right across the state, and yet they are also key examples of facilities councils struggle to fund on their own.

“Today’s budget was an important opportunity for the new Malinauskas Government to show that it’s in touch with the local government sector, and willing to work in partnership to benefit local communities.

“We’re pleased to significant investment into areas like road funding, health, education, and tourism, but there’s more needed to help councils deliver critical infrastructure and stimulate economic activity in their local areas.

“We will keep raising these issues with the Treasurer and the Local Government Minister, as we’re hopeful they’re still on the government’s agenda for further down the track,” she said.

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