Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone visited Whyalla today for the first time since the State Election, spruiking the $773 million included in the State Budget for the regions.
Speaking to the investment of $3.1 million for shoulder sealing on the Lincoln Highway between Whyalla and Cowell and Tumby Bay and Port Lincoln, Mr Whetstone said it was maintenance that was ‘long overdue’.
“I think it’s really important we acknowledge there are a lot of roadworks that need to be undertaken,” he said.
As farmers in the Eyre Peninsula continue to struggle with dry conditions, Mr Whetstone said there would be contingencies in the budget to support them.
“On Monday we had cabinet, and both the Premier and the Treasurer have put a plan (forward) that they would like in place,” he said.
That plan will be headed up by the Dry Working Group the state government have put together to assess what needs to be done to support farmers.
While Minister Whetstone claimed the budget was putting regions first, the Opposition have attacked the state government for ‘completely ignoring’ the recreational fishing community.
Shadow Primary Industries Minister Eddie Hughes said the majority of the sector were ‘left reeling’ after the government failed to provide support for a long-term Murray cod stocking program.
“Recreational fishing is the lifeblood of many regional towns and for the industry to be completely ignored by Minister Whetstone is a complete slap in the face,” he said.
Minister Whetstone said rec fishers would be ‘front and centre’ for the government.
“I will put rec fishers front and centre when we’re looking to reform that sector and make sure they do have good representation to government,” he said.
Meanwhile health continues to be a pressing issue for the regions, with Kimba without a General Practitioner and Whyalla lacking health professionals.
Minister Whetstone said Health Minister Stephen Wade would be visiting Kimba to discuss the issue and potentially reach a solution.
“It’s all to evident (in regional South Australia) that we are seeing a deficiency in having GPs being in small communities on a full time basis,” he said.
“I think it’s really important that Minister Wade come over here and address the concerns raised by the Mayor of Kimba.”
Minister Whetstone said communities like Whyalla would benefit from the $150 million Regional Growth Fund, which will see $15 million be allocated by the state government each year.
“A total of $5 million will be in a competitive round, which will be matched dollar-for-dollar,” he said.
The other $10 million in strategic funding will be available throughout the entire year for the state government to leverage funding from both industry, federal and local government.
“We’ll be able to maximise taxpayer’s money for the benefit of our regional communities and our regional businesses,” Minister Whetstone said.