Community leaders from across country South Australia are calling on all political parties and candidates in the forthcoming March 2018 State election to commit to (1) growing regional centres; (2) implementing a ‘Royalties for regions’ scheme and (3) strengthening regional policy and decision making.
Chair of the South Australian Regional Organisation of Councils, Naracoorte Lucindale Mayor, Erika Vickery said that South Australia is behind other states when it comes to being pro-active about growing regional centres.
“The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows there are now 30 regional cities in Australia with populations over 30,000 and 10 with populations over 100,000.”
“None are in South Australia.”
“The South Australian Strategic Plan commits country regions to simply maintaining a share of 18% of the state’s population. Yet nationally, a third of Australians live in a regional area.”
“Long-term we want to see 30% of the state’s population outside Greater Adelaide, to bring SA in line with the national average. It is aspirational, but we need to make a start”.
Port Augusta Mayor and Chair of Spencer Gulf Cities, Sam Johnson agrees and adds the second goal of basing 30% of the state government public service outside Greater Adelaide not only provides a boost to regional economies, but will also strengthen policy and decision making.
“The ongoing centralisation of the public service to Adelaide has meant a direct loss of jobs and residents living and working in regional South Australia and a disconnect reflected in centralised policy and decision making. Put simply, 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.”
“We also can’t forget that the state public service is a significant employer in its own right – we are keen to see more of those career opportunities spread into regions. Increasing the number of public sector jobs and agencies located in regional centres provides new employment and a new mix of skills into the community. It also reinforces Government’s commitment to the whole of South Australia, not just the metropolitan area.”
In addition to population and public-sector targets, Eyre Peninsula Local Government Association President, Sam Telfer from Tumby Bay said there needs to be a stronger return of funds generated from country areas back into strategic regional infrastructure.
“Last year mining royalty revenue to the SA Government was worth about $221 million”, explained Mayor Telfer. “If a ‘Royalties for Regions’ program was in place that quarantined even 25% of this revenue for country communities, it would have meant a direct investment of $55 million to regional SA last year – a trebling of the state’s current $15 million Regional Development Fund.”
Murraylands and Riverland President Dave Burgess concludes that ultimately, a commitment to actively growing country centres offers a chance to stop the urban sprawl of metropolitan Adelaide, provide more workers for rural industries and support a secure future for regions.
“It is the role of Government to foster confidence in our regions and ensure they have the enabling infrastructure and services to help build strong communities where people want to live, work and do business.”
“We look forward to a strong vision and commitment by the next Government and Members of Parliament to grow our South Australian regions.”
Mayor Erika Vickery, Limestone Coast Local Government Association (mob: 0427 622 133)
Mayor Sam Johnson, Spencer Gulf Cities Association (mob: 0423 291 127)
Mayor Sam Telfer, Eyre Peninsula Local Government Association (mob: 0427 885 607)
Mayor Dave Burgess, Murraylands & Riverland Local Government Assoc. (mob: 0428 813 450)