SA Budget 2017-18: Regional residents miss out

Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis hands down the 2017-18 state budget on June 22, 2017.
Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis hands down the 2017-18 state budget on June 22, 2017.

Although the 2017-18 state budget's catch-cry is 'putting South Australians first', regional residents have largely missed out on direct funding.

Announcing the budget on June 22, 2017, Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis declared the Labor government had delivered its ninth budget in surplus.

The budget centrepiece is a new $200 million jobs fund, developed to stimulate training and employment in the wake of General Motors' plant closure at Elizabeth. 

With a predicted focus on public health development in metropolitan and suburban Adelaide, Mount Barker is the only regional hospital to secure funding; $6.7m for 24-hour emergency care.

The budget incorporates a record $9.5 billion infrastructure spend, including $1.9b for roads, $875m for public transport, $425.4m for hospitals and $409.3m for education.

The biggest regional winner will be the Upper Spencer Gulf, for the second year running. 

Agriculture has largely missed out, although some investments in statewide tourism and $2m for the 'I Choose SA' brand may positively affect regional producers.

When asked about a lack of funding pledged to regional SA projects, the Treasurer claimed the new jobs fund will flow through to small businesses in regional areas.

Other regional SA projects:

$17.5 million for wastewater management in regional areas

$5 million for PACE discovery drilling in regional areas

$1.2 million over four years for Safer SA Waters program

$13.5 million to the River Murray over three years

Reporter Peri Strathearn breaks down regional SA spending:

The budget contained about $30.5 million worth of new spending on infrastructure in regional South Australia in the next financial year, and commitments worth millions of dollars more over the next four years.

More than $419.5 million will be spent in 2017-18 on projects previously announced, including science and technology labs in country schools, infrastructure for floodplains in the Riverland, an expansion of the Mount Gambier prison and housing for remote Indigenous communities.

The Regional Development Fund, designed to help spur economic growth in country areas, will again be allocated $15 million in the 2017-18 budget.

But $2.3 million allocated to the fund remained unspent at the end of 2016-17.

Another $2 million had been taken out for youth traineeships at regional and rural councils, and $1 million for mobile phone black spots, both state government projects.

By that logic, only two thirds of the available funding was spent on projects initiated by country councils or organisations during the past financial year.

Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said 1400 of the jobs created by the Jobs Accelerator Grant scheme had been in regional areas.