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‘Walk the dog’ fund to “empower” local communities

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You know better than politicians and bureaucrats what your suburb needs, Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis argues, so he’s giving $40 million to “neighbourhoods” to spend as they wish – gazumping the traditional role of local councils.

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In what the Government describes as one of the largest direct democracy budget exercises in the world, local areas will be allocated a portion of the $40 million to spend on ‘community’ projects such as upgrades to parks and lighting.

Individuals and community groups will be asked to submit proposals for where the funds should be allocated to the YourSAy website – subject to eligibility criteria to be announced next month.

Local residents will then be asked to vote online for their preferred project.

Koutsantonis said the measure would “give the power back to communities – back to suburbs”.

“This is just about communities saying ‘we’ve got no one to walk our dogs; there’s no lighting on this street; we want WiFi … the local park hasn’t been upgraded for years’,” said Koutsantonis.

It’s one of the selling points of today’s big-spend state budget, which also features a new $200 million future jobs fund and new taxes on foreign residential property acquisitions and banks.

Hydrogen-powered bus fleet

The government will roll out six hydrogen-powered buses in a trial that, Koutsantonis said, could lead to the entire public fleet being replaced with environmentally friendly vehicles.

$9 million for a ‘hydrogen roadmap’ – most to be spent in the next four years – will be put towards a hydrogen production facility in South Australia, a refuelling station and purchasing the buses.

The Treasurer said he hoped hydrogen-powered buses would be manufactured in South Australia in the future.

Main South Road duplication

The State Government will spend $305 million on the first stage of the duplication of Main South Road, between Seaford and Sellicks Beach.

There were 77 crashes on this part of Main South Road, resulting in 126 serious injuries and one fatality.

About 17,000 vehicles use the road every day.

Construction is due to begin in 2019.

Federal cash demand for Gawler electrification

Koutsantonis is asking the federal government to come up with half of the funds needed to electrify the Gawler Railway Line.

The State Government has funded the first stage of the electrification, at a cost of just over $150 million.

The state budget allocates $462.5 million for Stage 2, but Koutsantonis is seeking a 50/50 funding commitment from the federal government.

“Once this section is built, you’ll be able to drive from Torrensville to Gawler without stopping at a single traffic light,” Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan said.

“The business case for Gawler electrification more than stacks up, and we’re already getting on with building this important public transport project.

“Completing the electrification … will increase capacity and improve the reliability and efficiency of Adelaide’s busiest train line, allowing 2400 more passengers an hour to use the train in peak periods.”

O-Bahn Park ‘n’ Ride facilities

The Government will spend $15 million on car parks along the O’Bahn route.

The new facilities will contain an additional 500 spaces at Tea Tree Plaza and Klemzig.

It’s unclear whether there’s any new money to upgrade the aged bitumen on Grenfell Street, which is expected to see a 30 per cent increase in bus traffic once the O-Bahn is complete.

Two new schools

The Government announced it would build two new reception-to-year-12 schools in Adelaide’s northern and southern reaches.

The schools, to be built at Munno Parra and Aldinga/Sellicks Beach, will accommodate 1400 students and 100 special-school students, plus 55 childcare places, each.

The government does not yet know how much the schools will cost to build – or won’t say – because it has yet to negotiate the budget with a developer in a public-private partnership.

That announcement is expected in October-November. 

CBD first-home buyers boost

For the next three months, first-home buyers will have access to a new $10,000 grant if they buy yet-to-be-built, off-the-plan apartments in the CBD.

And a stamp duty concession for off-the-plan apartments – up to $15,500 – is being extended for another year.

It comes two months after the Adelaide City Council agreed to give new CBD residents five years rate-free – if they buy off-the-plan apartments, or city dwellings adapted from run-down office buildings.

The council made the measure contingent on a contribution of “equal or greater measure” from the State Government.

“Grassroots” sports clubs fund

Local sporting clubs will get a $20 million boost from today’s budget to help them establish or replace playing surfaces.

The funding will be available for two years, allowing soccer, hockey, tennis and bowls clubs purchase synthetic surfaces.

Clubs using wooden and hardcourt surfaces, such as for basketball, volleyball, tennis and netball will also be eligible.

Women’s sport facilities

A new $14 million fund will help sporting clubs build facilities, such as changing rooms, for girls and women.

Koutsantonis said it was “not good enough” that girls playing sport often had to get changed in their parents’ cars or elsewhere while the boys have dedicated change rooms.

He said many local sports clubs did not have the funds to change the situation.

Bigger upgrades for Her Majesty’s Theatre

The redevelopment of Her Majesty’s theatre will get a $31 million boost from today’s budget.

The revised plan includes adding an additional storey, heightening the roof above the stage, replacing the roof above the auditorium and improving patron and upgrading the building’s earthquake resistance and fire safety features.

Banks levy

Beginning July 1, the State Government will start collecting a “South Australian Major Bank Levy” on financial institutions adding up to $370 million over four years.

The levy “will apply at a rate of 0.015 per cent of South Australia’s share of liabilities subject to the federal major bank levy at the end of each quarter”.

Foreign property investor’s levy

The Government will impose a $48.8 million conveyance duty surcharge, beginning 1 January 2018, on foreign buyers of residential property.

The surcharge will be levied at four percent of conveyance duty; the Government points out this compares with an 8 per cent surcharge in New South Wales, seven per cent in Victoria, four per cent in Western Australia and three per cent in Queensland (at July 1 this year).

Jobs Fund

The State Government has unveiled a $200 million Future Jobs Fund.

The fund is split four ways, comprising:

It targets the shipbuilding and defence, renewable energy, mining, tourism, food and wine, health and medical research, IT and advanced manufacturing industries for funding.

As announced earlier this week, the Government is also offering an additional $5000 incentive to employ new apprentices or trainees, on top of the $10,000 grant already available to small-to-medium businesses that take on new employees.

3D city planning tech

A new $1 million fund will be set aside to build “high-accuracy three-dimensional models” of parts of Adelaide’s CBD.

‘Ageing Well’

$11.4 million will go towards the Ageing Well program, which develops products and services for older people.

We still like China

Despite attempting to distance itself from the disastrous Royale Adelaide Club venture at the Qingdau International Beer Festival in Shandong Province, China, the Government is still very keen on the province.

$1.3 million will be directed toward boosting university participation in Chinese international research networks, “with priority given to the region of Shandong”.

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