Legislative Council: Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Regional Development South Australia

The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (15:21): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister please inform the chamber about the important discussions that took place at last week's Regional Development South Australia annual summit and whether the themes raised in these discussions align with the government's regional development agenda?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:22): I thank the honourable member for his question. Each year, South Australia's Regional Development Australia network convenes a summit with a broad range of interested stakeholders from federal, state and local governments, as well as private sector peak bodies and businesses.

Each year, a central theme is selected for discussion, and this year it was my great pleasure to open the summit in Gawler last Friday, because the central theme was not simply a discussion point, it was a call to action. The theme was 'Population and Prosperity: regional population growth for South Australia—making it happen'.

The 2023-24 state budget calculated the annual economic contribution of regional South Australia at $36½ billion. In recent years, regional economies have been buoyed by major investments in agtech, the expansion of agricultural processing facilities, renewable energy and mining projects.

In this context, and in light also of the rising prevalence of work-from-home arrangements for many white-collar workers, the summit discussed the growing attraction of regional townships to capital city dwellers as well as opportunities for regional communities to contribute to this narrative and attract businesses and workers.

The summit also of course discussed many of the known barriers to regional growth, such as an insufficient supply of housing and skills needs between industries and the workers available. Local training opportunities were also part of that.

The question asked me about the alignment between the themes discussed at the summit and the government's regional development agenda. The government has been receptive in listening to regional communities about the major barriers they are confronting, and we have also been putting in place policies and programs designed to address some of those and to support regional growth.

We have an annual $15 million Thriving Regions Fund, with three subprograms targeted at fostering community vibrancy through small grants, supporting business and worker attraction through grants for priority infrastructure projects, and providing support for those encountering significant changes to their operating environment.

In addition, the government has invested $95 million over the forward estimates for regional road and transport improvements; $35.7 million for upgrades at regional government schools and preschools; $10.2 million to establish the Regional Skills Development Fund, which will ensure that TAFE SA can offer more courses in rural and regional South Australia, those courses being the ones which align with the needs of local industry and priorities; and three and a half million dollars over five years for a dedicated office for regional housing to work with local government, economic development agencies and employers to address housing shortages in regions.

They are just a few of the investments we have made, and the policies continue. We have also made it easier to construct temporary worker accommodation, for example, in response to the ongoing challenges in that space. I would like to congratulate the RDA network on once again hosting a relevant and practical summit, and I encourage all members of this chamber to support the government's ongoing efforts to facilitate and champion regional economic growth.