Motions: Coastline Protection

Wednesday December 04, 2019

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (12:27): I move to amend the motion as follows:


(d) acknowledges there is a significant divide between spend on regional coastline infrastructure and projects versus those located in the metropolitan area.

While I have moved my amendment to the motion, there is a whole host of things that I agree with in the original motion, and that is why I have not amended paragraphs (a), (b) or (c). I have moved to insert paragraph (d). Paragraph (a) of this motion could easily have read 'recognises the significant asset that our metropolitan coastline represents to the city people of South Australia' and paragraph (c) could have read 'acknowledges the Liberal government's significant investment in the preservation of metropolitan coastlines.'

I am very interested in future contributions to this motion, particularly from regional members. The member for Flinders, I would suggest, would have the most coastline anywhere in South Australia if you take it from the Western Australian border through to the electorate of the member for Giles. Of course, then you have the electorate of the member for MacKillop down to my electorate, the seat of Mount Gambier. I am trying to point out to the government the trap of falling into a city-centric Liberal government, and I do so deliberately. Using this example of regional coastline, if you look at the map the coastline outlined is far superior in length and distance to the metropolitan coastlines mentioned by speakers today.

Of course, there has been a significant investment in the preservation of South Australia's metropolitan coastline. This year's budget allocated $52 million to the overall coastline of South Australia, with $48 million allocated for metropolitan coastlines, and I am not here arguing that that is not justified. We have to realise that the majority of people in South Australia live in metropolitan areas or peri-urban areas attached to Adelaide. But $4 million allocated to the rest of South Australia's coastline covering the entirety of the South Australian coastline is nowhere near good enough.

An amount of $28.4 million of that $48 million, over half of that, is for just one project: a sand recycling pipeline from Semaphore to West Beach. Again, that is a project I would support. However, we have other avenues of funding. When the Royalties for Regions policy was developed by the Liberal Party, it was meant to set up a fund for the regions. The intent of the Royalties for Regions program was to take mining royalties, acknowledging that all mining activity occurs in regional South Australia, and quarantine 30 per cent for regions' infrastructure spend.

We heard the Minister for Mining say just last week that they have had record revenues from the mining sector—some $300 million. As a rough rule of thumb, there would be $90-odd million sitting in a regional investment fund (Royalties for Regions). We then found out when the Auditor-General's Report came up later that day that no such fund has actually been established. Coastal management is a critical environmental, social and economic need. Sand carting is now a fact of life to protect beaches and stabilise foreshores.

However, the vast sums of money spent on sand carting and building infrastructure in the metropolitan region do not sit well with me when I look at regional projects that are of equal importance and in such dire need of attention. The fact that this pool of money is coming out of the solid waste levy is another bone of contention with my councils. The levy increase announced in this year's state budget was $110 per tonne on 1 July, followed by an increase to $140 per tonne on 1 January next year. In the regions, the levy is based on 50 per cent of the metro rate and I think it is important to point that out.

Regional councils around the state are being impacted by this hike, as have metropolitan councils. If the returns for councils were equally divided depending on levy contributions, that may be a fair assessment. But if you do the maths you find that regional communities are once again subsidising metropolitan projects. Councils have had to scramble to find the extra money in budgets, and some of them have been forced to pass it along to ratepayers.

When this was announced, most were in the final stages of adopting financial plans and were forced to make changes to accommodate the extra fee. The impact on Wattle Range Council is $20,000. They were only notified of the solid waste levy hike after they had adopted their budget. The Mount Gambier city council has taken another $60,000 hit. For regional councils, these are significant costs and money that would otherwise be directed into projects for the good of local communities.

Coastal protection is of immense importance for our state, but so is maintenance of vital coastal infrastructure. There are more than 5,000 kilometres of coastline in South Australia and the Limestone Coast region, which encompasses my electorate of Mount Gambier, which currently has urgent need for fund allocation. We have the largest rock lobster fleet in the Southern Hemisphere with a major safety problem, which I have outlined a number of times in this house.

The Port MacDonnell harbour is essential infrastructure for not only Port MacDonnell but the Limestone Coast and the state's rock lobster fishing industry. Roger Cutting, President of the Port MacDonnell Professional Fisherman's Association, has written to minister Stephan Knoll outlining the problems the local fleet is currently having due to a long-term build-up of sand and seaweed in the harbour. He has called it a 'matter of extreme urgency'.

The levels are so high that professional and recreational fishermen are having trouble refuelling, mooring and moving in and out of the harbour, and they are reporting engine damage due to weed ingestion. Roger goes on to say that in low tides boats simply cannot fill up with fuel. This is becoming a safety issue. The locals need to be able to use the harbour safely. He has received a response from the minister's office stating that it would take 12 months to get approval to find out where to best dispose of the dredging.

I speak not only for my electorate but for all regional electorates in South Australia. I refer to an article in The Advertiser from May, which outlines the dire condition of many of South Australia's regional jetties. There are 36 jetties and wharves across the state and, although they are owned by the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, they are actually maintained by local councils under local lease arrangements.

Repair bills are starting to accumulate in excess of $16 million, and these costs are far beyond the reach of coastal councils. Over the last two years, Kingston District Council spent 37 per cent of its annual expenditure on marine infrastructure. In November last year, the state government gave $325,000 to eight South Australian councils to manage coastal risks and deal with erosion—seven of these councils were regional. Compare $48 million with $300,000 and it is not a fair assessment. With those words, I commend the amended motion to the house.