Levy proposed to fund key outback services

Levy proposed to fund key outback services

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WITH the state budget to be released June 18, Treasurer Rob Lucas has already released some new charges expected in 2019-20.

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WITH the state budget to be released June 18, Treasurer Rob Lucas has already released some new charges expected in 2019-20.

Among those highlighted was a levy on those who live in council-free outback areas, to help support the Outback Communities Authority.

The government statement estimated the levy would be an annual charge of $100 to $400 per property, to allow the OCA to maintain services and upgrade infrastructure.

A spokesperson for Mr Lucas said there would be consultation with communities about this levy.

OCA chair Cecilia Woolford said the authority had approached the state government ahead of the budget for more funds and resources "to do our jobs better".

She said the OCA had always had the ability to put a levy in place but had never been allowed to use it before.

Ms Woolford said the OCA had responsibility for all outback townships and settlements outside traditional council areas.

It covers an estimated 635,000 square kilometres, and about 4500 people.

Among the responsibilities are airstrips, repeater stations and public toilets, as well as services within settlements.

She said the OCA's finances meant for the main they were only maintaining the status quo with little buffer for upgrades or investment.

"What we're doing is starting a conversation, and it's not about whether we want to pay a levy," she said.

"It's a conversation about what services people in the outback people want, and what kind of governance we want to have.

"We want more security so we know the OCA can deliver and put money back into communities the way we used to."

Ms Woolford estimated the consultation process would take at least two years.

Opposition spokesperson for regional development Eddie Hughes said the government should have consulted before the announcement.

"There is no question that outback areas need more assistance in dealing with infrastructure and services," he said.

"The government needs to ensure this is done in an equitable way."

The government has also announced it will phase out motor vehicle concessions of 40 per cent for heavy vehicles and 50pc for other vehicles used primarily in "outer areas", such as Kangaroo Island, the District Council of Coober Pedy and District Council of Roxby Downs.

The statements said these concessions were being removed as there was no reason why they applied to some parts of regional SA and not others.

But KI mayor Michael Pengilley called the move "mean-spirited" with these communities "unique cases".

"A lot of vehicles on KI don't go off the island," he said. "There is no public transport whatsoever so people rely on their vehicles."

He said people on KI had to pay more for fuel and other necessities and this was another hit to budgets.

Mr Lucas said SA was facing a significant $517 million shortfall in revenue from the GST this year and it was imperative to "plug that hole in a responsible way".

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