Little state backing for Limestone Coast

SWAN SONG: Despite a number of big ticket items in the 2021-22 State Budget for the metropolitan area, the final budget of Treasurer Rob Lucas has little funding for the Limestone Coast.

By Raquel Mustillo

THE Limestone Coast has received little backing in the State Government’s 2021-22 budget, with the last budget before the next election showing no big infrastructure wins for the Mount Gambier or MacKillop electorates. 

The government announced three Limestone Coast projects in the 2021-22 State Budget – including $850,000 towards Grant District Council’s $5m Mount Gambier saleyards transformation – which was previously announced in May. 

A $800,000 allocation towards the $1.6m Mount Gambier cycle path and extension and solar light installation was announced in March, while $662,000 towards the $2.65m Kingston Beacon visitor centre at Cape Jaffa lighthouse was announced last year.

Despite jobs, health – particularly mental health – and education being budget priorities, the document does not provide any significant capital expenditure for the region.

Under the government’s $163.5 Mental Health Package, a new 16 bed crisis stablisation facility will be built in Adelaide’s northern suburbs which will operate 24 hours a day aimed at reducing admissions to public hospitals and ease pressures on emergency departments.

The government will spend $12m next financial year to support the fit out to create additional psychiatric care bed capacity for up to eight additional beds, to be commissioned by SA Health as necessary based on future demand.

While the government has allocated 140 new treatment spaces across a number of metropolitan and regional hospitals – including Murray Bridge and Victor Harbor – no funding has been announced for the Mount Gambier and Districts Health Service.

The government aims to start concept planning and funding approval phase of an ambulatory care hub – which aims meet the needs of patients requiring emergency access to medical care but who can be managed to avoid admission a hospital bed – at the Mount Gambier Hospital. 

The budget provides $8.2m as of next year to recruit an additional 74 emergency operational staff to the South Australian Ambulance Service – including up to 24 additional staff to enable up to four regional stations to achieve active shift rosters.

A further $5.5m will be provided to SA Health-run regional aged care facilities to transfer from a paper-based system to an electronic management system, which will include medication management at the bedside and supporting data entry at the point of care.

The government aims to continue the Country Fire Service’s (CFS) facilities renew program to manage maintenance and upgrades at stations across the state, as well as deliver 40 new trucks inline with the emergency service’s ongoing annual capital program.

Amid a nationwide timber storage, the State Government will also develop a wood encouragement policy for South Australia to promote the benefits of wood in building and construction. 

As part of its forestry policy, the government also aims to grow farm forestry in South Australia to expand commercial forestry resources and diversify farm incomes.

SA Police will receive $98.9m over five years to hep manage the state’s response to COVID-19, including costs relating to border patrols, medi-hotel security, cross-border travel authorisations and compliance activities.

Funding also includes 168 additional Protective Security Offices to support the operation of medi-hotels and employment of SES volunteers for broader COVID-19 related activities.