The State Government’s 2016/17 State Budget delivers a mixed bag for the Hills.
Jobs and education are among the winners, but the region looks set to lose out with little funding coming for much-needed infrastructure.
The Government’s $10,000 cash for jobs incentive won’t be enough to significantly cut the Mt Barker district’s worrying jobless rate of 8.6%, but it is hoped it will be enough to spark some much-needed confidence in the local economy.
The $109m Jobs Creation Grant, announced in last week’s budget, will see payments to small businesses for every new full-time worker hired.
The Hills is renowned for its small and medium enterprises, particularly in the food, wine and retail sectors. Such businesses are among the largest employers in the region.
The $10,000 grant is enough to cover an employee’s penalty rates and could be the difference in a business owner’s decision between hiring a young apprentice or that person becoming another statistic in the jobless toll.
Government schools were also budget winners, with five Hills schools set to undergo transformations in their science and maths laboratories to boost interest in these typically unattractive subjects.
Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis wants science-minded students to become engineers and mathematicians in jobs created by the submarines project or the Olympic Dam mine expansion.
However, it appears the budget ignored one of Mt Barker’s most anticipated and expensive projects, the $28m Mt Barker Regional Sports Hub.
Mr Koutsantonis said the SA Government would not help fund the sports hub unless Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull increased his handout from the promised $3.75m.
This is a worrying announcement given the lengthy list of infrastructure Mt Barker needs to keep pace with the rapid growth foisted upon it by the State Government.
The sports hub is just one of many multi-million dollar sport, recreation, community, health and transport facilities that will be needed in coming years.
While job creation is essential to a healthy local economy, the Government must also realise that, with Mt Barker on track to becoming the State’s second largest city behind Adelaide, infrastructure funding is also paramount.