A direct response to the State Government’s Regional Development Strategy has been issued in the form of an $85m spending call by Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell. In the works for the last six months, Mr Bell’s Future Mount Gambier strategy outlines a five-year plan that aims to lock-in the growth and expansion of Mount Gambier, a city he says must own its identity as the second-largest in South Australia.
The plan collects 17 areas of action, identified after engaging with more than two dozen stake-holders from the highest priority industries, with targets of $20m over four years for forestry future initiatives and $10m over four years for an affordable housing initiative, among others. It also eyes a $10m spend towards an infrastructure development fund, $10m towards sporting infrastructure or talent development and a $6m spend over four years for tourism development.
But the most immediately important initiatives for Mr Bell are getting $2.6m over four years for mental health services in Mount Gambier, followed by his affordable housing targets and the development of a $5m business attraction and retention fund. All up, the strategy – which Mr Bell described as more of a starting point and a working document with room to grow – calls for an $85m State Government spend in Mount Gambier.
Mr Bell said the figure was arrived at following discussions with at least 25 stakeholders. “We have to stand up and recognise that we are the state’s second-largest city,” Mr Bell said. “We have to demand more of the economic pie being returned to our region. “It’s really saying to the government – invest in Mount Gambier and you’ll grow South Australia.”
Mr Bell said the plan was a direct response to the Marshall Government’s Regional Development Strategy, which identified just four opportunities for the growth of the Limestone Coast. These were the region’s transport in the form of the Green Triangle Freight Action Plan, the maintenance and upgrade of the South East Drainage Network, the region’s power availability and reliability and the region’s mobile phone coverage and high-speed broadband availability.
Mr Bell said “if that’s a regional development strategy, then we have got some major problems.” “I was appalled at the lack of understanding and lack of proactive initiatives for our region,” he said. “It has future opportunities … but no timelines, no budget.”
Mr Bell added the Future Mount Gambier strategy became a priority after the Marshall Government’s 2021 State Budget “completely ignored” the Limestone Coast. “It’s the worst Budget I have seen in seven years of being in Parliament,” he said. “I’m really hoping this is taken seriously. I’m meeting with all political parties … talking through this document because the city of Mount Gambier deserves its own focus independent of other, much smaller regions and that’s where I’m hoping to get to.”
Mr Bell said he had already started campaigning for the initiatives identified in Future Mount Gambier and had discussed them with several of the state’s political parties. He said the total commitment eyed in Future Mount Gambier could increase once a document was finalised before the next State Election.
The Future Mount Gambier strategy was praised by Mount Gambier City Council. “The City of Mount Gambier welcomes the Member for Mount Gambier’s Future Mount Gambier Plan,” Mayor Lynette Martin said. “The plan closely aligns with the vision, aspirations and priorities of our community now and into the future, also reflected in Council’s Strategic Plan 2020-2024.
“Our shared leadership in advocating for our community is critical to our city’s success and Council looks forward to working with Troy to achieve these strategic initiatives.”
According to the South Australian Electoral Commission, the next State Election will be held on March 19, 2022.