By Raquel Mustillo
ADDITIONAL mental health services, recurrent funding for the forestry sector and on-demand public transport are among the major projects included in an ambitious $85m plan released by Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell.
The independent MP has released a strategic four-year plan outlining a list of Mount Gambier funding priorities across a number of sectors, including housing, tourism, waste and recycling and drug and alcohol services.
Future Mount Gambier seeks to secure $85m in State Government investment for the Blue Lake City, including $20m towards the forestry industry, $10m for housing and the establishment of a $10m sports fund to help clubs refurbish ageing infrastructure.
Mr Bell said the plan had been developed in consultation with key stakeholders and experts and was a blueprint for the State Government to understand Mount Gambier-specific challenges and opportunities.
“Mount Gambier has its own unique character, assets and geographical challenges and the city deserves its own strategic direction and State Government focus, independent of other South Australian regions,” he said.
“Recently, I spoke out about our State Budget being city-centric and this plan is my way of proactively letting the State Government know that Mount Gambier deserves much more, and its own standalone direction and budget.
“Over the last seven years, these are the issues that I have been confronted with and want to see something done about.
“Each priority has been the result of discussions with key stakeholders and what they need to deliver services in our region at a level that is commensurate with the size of our population.”
The 22-page document includes calls on funding to facilitate two new positions at the Mount Gambier-based Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service, $1m to establish a cross-border commissioner and $800,000 for a region-specific TAFE SA board.
Mr Bell said the plan was designed to be a working document and welcomed feedback on the plan, which is available at troybell.com.au or from the Mount Gambier electorate office.
“Every idea, no matter how big or small, has merit and this plan is the culmination of those meetings and talks,” he said.
Industry and organisations have backed Mr Bell’s multimillion dollar wishlist, with South Australian Forest Products Association chief executive officer Nathan Paine saying the plan was demonstrative the independent MP put industry at the centre of Mount Gambier’s success going forward.
“Without a doubt, Mount Gambier and indeed South Australia’s future success is reliant on our ability to grow trees and process them into timber and other by-products – forestry is a critical cog in our community and economy and this has been reflected in Troy’s Plan,” he said.
“With an election due in just over nine months, we will be keenly watching how the major parties respond to Troy’s plan and more importantly how they embed stronger support for the forest products industry in South Australia.”
Limestone Coast Local Government Association destination development manager Biddie Shearing welcomed Mr Bell’s inclusion of $6m for tourism development, saying the priorities outlined in the plan aligned with the organisation’s recently released Destination Development Strategy.
“I wholeheartedly agree with the focus around product development, marketing/promotion, Valley Lakes masterplan and event management/attraction incentives,” she said.
“By improving our industries digital capabilities, we also lift our digital footprint, reaching more people and importantly providing conversion opportunity, leading to visitor economy growth.
“Events are critical as part of our tactical marketing and as highlighted in the document, mostly delivered with volunteer organisations – volunteer fatigue is a risk, and we need to manage the risk moving forward.”
Substance Misuse Limestone Coast project officer Sophie Bourchier said the inclusion of ongoing financial assistance would help the advocacy and health promotion organisation continue its work across the region, including education, early intervention initiatives and workforce training.
“We have advocated to expand our Planet Youth survey across the Limestone Coast and we will get data from every secondary school in the region about drug and alcohol use,” she said.
“Family drug support are coming down to do some education and training mid-August to help support families where someone has a drug and alcohol problem, and we are organising workforce training in September.
“The plan allows us to continue to deliver our projects, rather than spend our time looking for funding.”
Regional homelessness provider ac.care welcomed Mr Bell’s focus on affordable housing, which seeks $10m over four years to address the growing shortage of supply.
ac.care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks said the lack of affordable housing was the key issue forcing an increasing number of country people into homelessness or unsustainable situations.
Mr Maddocks said this had resulted in existing crisis and emergency housing demand stretching beyond capacity, leaving nowhere to go for those who became homeless, such as people unable to sustain tenancies.
He also backed Mr Bell’s call for inclusion of low-cost homes in all new housing estates and hoped the document would prompt further investment in public housing and discussion at all levels of government.
A spokesperson from the Premier’s office said Mr Bell’s correspondence had only recently been received and “it will be considered”.
Mr Bell said he was meeting with members of all political parties – including Premier Steven Marshall and SA-Best parliamentarian Frank Pangallo this week – to discuss the plan.
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