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State budget saves the Overland, promises public housing and Ngarrindjeri treaty
South Australia's 2022 budget also includes spending on public housing, treaty-making and the River Murray.
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The Overland has been saved – for now, at least.
The state government will subsidise the only passenger train to serve Murray Bridge for four years, to the tune of $1.4 million.
The funding was announced in Thursday’s state budget.
Rail advocate John Wilson described the commitment – which followed a long campaign by supporters of the the Adelaide to Melbourne service – as “a bit of a triumph”.
But he cautioned that its future would remain uncertain as long as tourists considered rail travel to be a second-rate option.
“It’s not going to be enough just to accept this funding,” he said.
“South Australia has just got to pull its finger out and work with tourism enterprises to get more people on the train.”
That might include the development of package experiences which could feature train and riverboat trips, combined with visits to attractions such as Monarto Safari Park or the Bend Motorsport Park.
While Treasurer Stephen Mullighan did not make any specific promises about other forms of public transport in Murraylands, the budget also included $416,000 for investigations into “how to better integrate public transport opportunities” in regional centres, and $4.9 million over three years to support existing bus and coach services in country areas.
Mr Mullighan said the budget had laid the foundation for the government’s agenda for the next four years: “delivering for the next generation no matter what part of the state they choose to live (in), including people in regional South Australia”.
More public housing, repairs to derelict properties promised
As promised, the state government will aim to address one of the biggest issues in the Murraylands, our chronic housing shortage, by:
Building 150 new publicly owned homes in five regional centres, including Murray Bridge
Making another 100 derelict homes fit to be lived in, including some in Murray Bridge
Having maintenance done on 3000 public homes across the state
A low-deposit home loan scheme will also be made available to South Australian first home buyers under the Homestart program.
Eligible participants would only need to provide three per cent of the purchase price of their property up front.
Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the government’s investment in housing and other infrastructure would create jobs in the construction industry, which would help pull the state’s economy out of the doldrums of the past two years.
Treaty negotiations will resume
The government will re-start the process of treaty-making with Indigenous nations, including the Ngarrindjeri, which it began prior to the Liberals’ victory at the 2018 election.
It will also spend $1 million erecting monuments to six Aboriginal leaders.
Ngarrindjeri writer and inventor David Unaiapon could be a likely candidate.
Other odds and ends
The government also plans to spend about $525,000 per year employing a Commissioner for the River Murray, $19.7 million over three years proofing riverfront areas against high-flow events, and $11.6 million maintaining the health of the Coorong over the next two years.
Among the other measures included in the budget were:
A mid-year intake for schools, from 2024, and preschools, from 2023
$2 million worth of grants for farm firefighting units
$20 million for works on the Princes Highway, between Tailem Bend and the border
‘Labor has neglected Hammond’: Adrian Pederick
The Murraylands’ representative in state parliament, Liberal MP Adrian Pederick, welcomed promised spending on the South Eastern Freeway.
But he was disappointed that the new Labor government’s first budget had not included any new infrastructure projects in Hammond, the electorate with Murray Bridge at its centre.
“Infrastructure projects in places like Hammond help improve regional communities and contribute to their economies,” he said.
“With cost of living pressures really starting to bite, now is not the time to be winding back jobs in the regions.”
By contrast, the former Liberal government had funded more than $200 million worth of local projects during the past four years, he said.