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Pages tagged "Primary Industries and Regional Development"

Question time: Renting in the Regions and Cost of Living Concessions

7 July 2022

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of renting in the regions and the Cost of Living Concession.


Leave granted.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: This morning, Premier Malinauskas and Minister Cook held a press conference announcing the state government's commitment to bring forward the Cost of Living Concession payments to August this year. Previously, some recipients were due to receive their payment in March 2023. In August, home owner-occupiers who are eligible to receive the Cost of Living Concession will receive $449 to assist with their cost-of-living expenses while eligible renters will receive just half of that, $224.60.


We know that more South Australians than ever before are experiencing rental stress. This is particularly acute in regional areas, where prices have surged by almost 70 per cent over the last two years. My question to the minister is: is the minister concerned that renters in regional areas are being short-changed by the Cost of Living Concession, and will she be advocating for renters to receive the same payment as home owners as part of the government's review of these concessions?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. I was also delighted to be able to hear the announcement today that effectively the Cost of Living Concession will be doubled as we go forward in this period of time. Certainly, I think there is an important need to be constantly looking at the concessions that we have in our state. They are a very important part of supporting those who need that assistance at various times throughout their lives. I will be happy to refer the substance of his question to the Minister for Human Services in the other place.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: will the minister be advocating for renters in the regions to get the same concession as home owners, given the crisis gripping regional South Australia?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I am constantly in discussions with the Minister for Human Services, as are most members, I am sure, on this side of the chamber, about how we can best address the cost-of-living concerns and issues being faced by people across our state.


Cross Border Commissioner Bill Amendments

14 June 2022

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The member for Mount Gambier's ears will well and truly be burning this afternoon. He has been the subject of a riveting debate. In the interests of time, I think we need to cut to the chase here. I am concerned that what we are seeing is a meal being made of an entree. I am not a good cook—the Hon. Tammy Franks can attest to that—but I do think that what we are seeing is something being whipped up out of nothing.


I do understand the Hon. Clare Scriven's concerns, and it is for that reason we made it very clear that we were not going to support the original amendments that were put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in this place, because we could see the potential for there to be some unintended consequences. I take at face value the leader's claims that she wants to ensure that taxpayers get good bang for their buck in terms of this role and is not trying to hold up the position.


What she has come back with, though, in terms of some revised amendments, I think strikes the right balance. I understand that it is the government's desire for this not to be amended at all and for it to go through as is, and I completely understand that, but I think what is being proposed is a fairly reasonable compromise. I do not think the sky is going to fall in if we agree to this.


I would be concerned if someone is appointed to this role who does not have the capacity to deal with scoping out a plan versus also beginning the work. That does not strike me as being terribly onerous, and I am keen to understand why that might be the case. My view is: let us move on with this. I know the minister says that she is very keen to get this happening and for it to be a priority. We in the Greens share that desire; we have always been supportive of this proposal. Indeed, my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks has advocated previously that any such commissioner should reside in a regional community, and we think that is an important principle.


The idea of having some requirements in terms of the development of an annual plan and setting in place some consultation requirements I do not think is an outrageous suggestion. Obviously, Mr Bell will be a very important stakeholder, but there will be a range of others as well whom I envisage would be engaged with, and I think they are stipulated in the leader's amendment. So let's kind of move on, because I am concerned that this is, as the Hon. Connie Bonaros said, making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill—or a Mount Gambier out of a molehill; there has been a lot of mention of the Limestone Coast. So let's move on.


Question: Lead Pollution in Port Pirie

01 June 2022

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of lead pollution at Port Pirie.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: InDaily reported yesterday that 42 public houses are located in areas of risk to children under the age of five because they are prone to lead dust. In the article it was stated that all of those 42 homes are currently occupied by at least one child aged under five. It is understood that there is a tender open for a maintenance contractor to facilitate the planning and completion of lead abatement related works in Port Pirie.


My question to the minister is:

Does the Malinauskas government intend to carry out the previous government's pledge to cut lead pollution at the Port Pirie smelter, and will the government rehouse affected families while the lead abatement project is taking place?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries):

I thank the honourable member for his question. I am happy to take that on notice and refer it to my colleagues in the other place who have direct responsibility for those matters.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: when can I expect a response?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): That will be as soon as possible.

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (1 June 2022).

Written answer tabled (7 July 2022)

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Human Services has advised:

Port Pirie has been segmented into lead-risk areas: high, medium and low. A lead-risk map reflecting these areas was updated in April 2020 and provided to the Port Pirie Housing SA office. The current practice is to not allocate families with children under five within the currently defined high-risk area. Existing tenants with children under five residing in the high-risk area, who were allocated prior to the provision of the updated lead-risk map, were given the opportunity to relocate to another medium-risk or low-risk area within Port Pirie.

Families who reside in current medium-risk and low-risk areas will not be relocated during the lead abatement works as these works will focus on the exterior of the house. Work will include covering existing exposed soil and increasing dust suppression to avoid potentially contaminated soil from blowing into homes. The soil will be tested on site prior to commencement of works, and soil with greater than 300 parts per million of lead will be removed from the yard and replaced with clean fill.


Question: Regional Housing Affordability

31 May 2022

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development.


The Hon. C.M. Scriven: About?


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: About the topic of housing affordability. Don't worry, minister, it's not the budget. As reported in The Advertiser on Saturday, the quarterly HOOD.ai tenant report has identified areas where rent costs are skyrocketing. The report showed that rural and regional areas are some of those that have seen the steepest rent increases over the last years in areas such as Kapunda, Mount Gambier and McLaren Flat.


Last week, the Mount Gambier Messenger reported that in Mount Gambier the cost of renting a house has increased by 7 per cent since January, while renting a unit has increased by 4.7 per cent. For some renters, that is an extra $30 a week that they are having to pay to keep a roof over their head.


With vacancy rates in Mount Gambier at 0.25 per cent, rising rental properties added to low vacancy rates are pushing people towards homelessness. In recent weeks, my office has received calls from constituents who are struggling to find rental accommodation. One constituent told us of the McLaren Vale Lakeside Caravan Park, where a number of people are now living after being displaced from rental accommodation. These people have jobs, but they are unable to find a place to rent.


My question to the minister therefore is: is the government aware of these reports and what strategies are being adopted to address these?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question about an incredibly important issue which is faced not only here in Adelaide but throughout our regional areas. This is something that I have been hearing about firsthand on my various visits to regional areas and of course the honourable member referred to Mount Gambier, which is my home area.


I, too, am hearing these stories, these incredibly difficult stories to hear, of incredibly difficult circumstances. As the honourable member mentioned, or perhaps alluded to without saying so in so many words, I think often people think of homelessness as those who are in desperate financial circumstances, people who don't have work and don't have other social supports, but as he has rightly pointed out, in many cases because of the huge increases in rentals over the last couple of years in particular, there are people who have full-time jobs who still can't afford to rent.


I have heard of people turning up to an open inspection for a rental in Mount Gambier and there being 50 other applicants. I was speaking a few weeks ago at an event and afterwards one gentleman who came up to speak to me said that he had moved to Mount Gambier—again, in this case Mount Gambier—last year. He was working in mental health, which is an area of very high need and regional areas find it very difficult to attract health professionals and retain them. He was loving Mount Gambier. He wanted to stay, and yet for six months he had been without his own house or unit. He was unable to acquire a rental, despite the fact he was a quite well paid health professional.


Similarly, I have heard of two teachers who were working in the local high school, who were very happy to be there. Again, they loved Mount Gambier, because of course Mount Gambier is one of the best places in the state. However, they spent two terms living in a caravan in a caravan park, and that is not something that they wanted to continue to do, which is entirely understandable. Unfortunately, my region has now lost those two teachers, who have returned to, I think it was, Melbourne.


In terms of the Malinauskas Labor government's commitments in regional housing, of course we have made commitments to 150 new homes in regional areas, the building of those, and this is on top of bringing homes back up to the standard that is needed. Some of these homes have spent months or even years vacant. Unfortunately, those issues weren't addressed sufficiently by the former government.


This is in addition to our maintenance blitz on 3,000 homes across the state. Those particular initiatives that I have mentioned are all being funded with new money. That is a part of our commitment, and of course the Minister for Human Services in the other place is working very hard and very diligently on social housing, and across the term, because housing touches many portfolios, we are looking at ways to increase the housing stock both for purchasers and for renters.


The regional development associations across the state have also done a lot of work over the last couple of years in trying to address this issue, and so with my regional development hat on I will continue to work with them and my other parliamentary colleagues to continue to try to address this very important issue.

 

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: does the minister concede that building just 150 new homes in the regions is insufficient? Will she be advocating for her colleagues at a state level to build more housing in the regions, and will she be advocating for the Albanese Labor government to invest more money in public housing in South Australia?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): Thank you for the supplementary question. I think we need to take all the steps that we possibly can to address this issue. As has been mentioned, it is rental housing, it is affordable housing to buy. It is all sorts, all types of housing. It is executive level housing in regional areas as well. All of those are facing a lack of supply, and so we need to use all the mechanisms we possibly can to address these issues.


Certainly, that will include liaising with the new federal government, the Albanese federal government. I don't think the announcement about who is getting what portfolio federally has come out yet, unless it has been today and I haven't had a chance to catch up with the latest news, but I will certainly be working with my state parliamentary colleagues and federal ministers to try to address this issue.


Question: Blue Gum Removal on Kangaroo Island

17 May 2022

 

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development.


The PRESIDENT: On the topic of?


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On the topic of blue gums on Kangaroo Island.


Leave granted.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr President. Everybody is interested in KI today. I visited Kangaroo Island last year, and locals told me about the plantations of Tasmanian blue gums that are a result of the forestry industry species that is not endemic to the island. After the fires, mature blue gums released a large volume of seed, which has germinated in areas of remnant vegetation, conservation land and roadside vegetation. What has resulted is a dense infestation of Tasmanian blue gums that are outcompeting native flora and fauna and changing the ecosystems that provide essential habitat for vulnerable species.


Tasmanian blue gums grow at a rapid rate, and it is currently reported that these trees are now standing over two metres tall. A concerted effort by locals volunteering has managed to remove 20 per cent of the saplings, but the time to easily remove them has already passed. A consortium of conservation groups, Trees for Life, the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board, the Kangaroo Island Landowners Association, the nature conservation council of SA and the Kangaroo Island Council have reported that only 900 hectares out of more than 3,500 have been cleared of Tasmanian blue gums, and they have called for additional funds to address this recovery effort.


My questions to the minister therefore are:

  1. What is the government planning to do to address the invasive Tasmanian blue gums in forestry plantations on Kangaroo Island?
  2. Will the minister ensure that the timber industry make a contribution?
  3. Will the government be allocating funds within the coming budget to deal with this serious problem?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. It is quite interesting that it is the same day as you are talking about the issue of feral pigs, for example, because the very finely balanced ecosystem of Kangaroo Island, of course, is incredibly important, both for its benefits for tourism, its benefits for ecological purposes, its benefits for our agricultural sector.


I haven't had the particular matter that the honourable member has mentioned brought to my attention. I am certainly happy to investigate further and come back to the council with an answer. I suspect it also very strongly covers and crosses over with the responsibilities of my colleague in the other place the Minister for Environment and Water. So I will certainly look into this matter. I thank the member for bringing it to my attention, and if he would like to provide me any further details other than his outline to the chamber today, I am very happy to receive them.

 

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (7th July 2022)

 

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honorable member for his question and provide the following response:

I assume that your question relates to germination of Tasmanian blue gum wildlings on Kangaroo Island.

Since the 2019-20 bushfires, the state and commonwealth governments have committed just over $1.5 million to this issue. By 30 June 2022, it is anticipated that initial control work will have been undertaken on more than 1,000 hectares.

Control of Tasmanian blue gum wildlings remains a priority for this government, with this work to continue into 2022-23.

Since early 2022, landholders are required to control Tasmanian blue gums wildlings growing on their land.

I’m advised that the Department for Environment and Water are working with Kangaroo Island Landscape Board to ensure landholders, including Kiland, are aware of their responsibilities under the Landscape Act 2019.


Question: Nuclear Dump Planned for Kimba

30 November 2021


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the federal government announced that it has acquired more than 200 hectares of land near Kimba on Eyre Peninsula to build a nuclear waste storage facility, confirming the site, which is home to some of the country’s best agricultural land, and it was also recently announced as the Agricultural Town of the Year. The traditional owners, the Barngarla people, have been vehemently against this proposal from the beginning, with this announcement also at odds with South Australian law, under which this proposal is deemed illegal. My questions to the Treasurer, therefore, are:

  1. Has the government sought advice from the Crown Solicitor on the implications of Kimba being selected as the nation's radioactive site, which is in direct contravention of the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000, an act which was passed under the former Liberal Olsen government, of which the Treasurer was a part?
  2. Given the government has announced Kimba as the 2021 Agricultural Town of the Year, are they concerned that their status as a thriving farming community will be compromised once this radioactive waste dump is established?


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I am happy to refer the honourable member's questions to the Premier and/or other ministers and bring back a reply.


Question: Port Pirie Smelter

9th September 2021 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The latest SA Health report into Port Pirie lead levels, released on 30 August, shows that in the first half of this year the average blood levels of Port Pirie children under five was 5.7 micrograms. For children tested on their second birthday, it was 7.8 micrograms, the highest reading in a decade. Experts have issued parents with a range of warnings, including to ensure their air-conditioners are cleaned, their windows and doors are properly sealed, children's toys and clothes are cleaned daily, clothes are not dried outside, and prams are not pushed into the wind.

My question to the Minister for Health is: given the risks associated with high lead levels, what is the government doing to ensure remissions from the smelter are lowered to limit the adverse outcomes to children, including respiratory illness and socio-behavioural problems?


The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:41): With all due respect to the honourable member, I am not the minister responsible for the EPA. The reduction strategies within the smelter are coordinated by him. I will say that this government is a government that is very determined to make sure we improve the governance of the Port Pirie blood lead levels program, particularly through the Targeted Lead Abatement Program.

Recently an independent review was undertaken, seeing that the leadership of that initiative has been strengthened. The lead minister is the Hon. Dan van Holst Pellekaan, Minister for Energy and Mining, in partnership with myself and Minister Speirs. The recent deterioration is concerning, and certainly the work being done with the smelter to reduce emissions is a key part of the long-term strategy.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:42): A supplementary: noting the minister's reply, what is he doing, as the Minister for Health, to satisfy himself that young people and children are not being placed at risk in Port Pirie as a result of this smelter?


The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:42): One thing is being part of a government that is proactive. I am proud of the fact that it was this government that did a thorough review of the Targeted Lead Abatement Program.


In relation to the program, the Port Pirie Environmental Health Centre, which is part of the health network, has implemented strategies to improve dust management in the community, including allocating additional caseworker resources, increased interventions offered to families with children at high risk of exposure, increased cleaning of public spaces in the community, and removing contaminated waste.


Through our environmental health centre, families of children at risk of elevated blood levels are given individual counselling, advocacy support and strategies to reduce their child's risk of exposure and absorption of lead. Interventions to reduce exposure are tailored for the specific lead sources in each situation. Some of the interventions that could be used include professional housecleaning, covering exposed yard soil, minor home repairs, assistance with access to healthy foods, offering subsidised childcare, and relocating families most affected to lower exposure locations.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:44): A further supplementary: will the minister be advocating to his colleagues, the Minister for Environment and Water and the Minister for Energy and Mining, to reduce the lead levels in the area, and is he advocating for more water to be available to reduce the proliferation of dust?


The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:44): This government, as I said, is taking a collaborative approach. The targeted lead abatement program is a multiportfolio response. We have certainly been discussing it a number of times, including recently as a result of the independent review, and all of the factors are balanced in consultation with my cabinet colleagues.


Question: Giant Cuttlefish

10 June 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:03): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the minister representing the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, the Treasurer, on the topic of giant cuttlefish in Whyalla.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, it was reported that Whyalla council approved Point Lowly marina access to Clean Seas Seafood to set up a major kingfish farm in nearby Fitzgerald Bay. This approval has come despite major concerns from the community and council about the impact on the world famous giant Australian cuttlefish population.

Clean Seas has been attempting to gain access to the Point Lowly marina since 2019 but had repeatedly been blocked by the council. Last week's approval will allow it to move its first fingerlings into Fitzgerald Bay before the end of the year.

Whyalla Mayor Clare McLaughlin said the council risked losing control of the state government owned marina if it rejected the latest bid. The council has said they feel they have no choice but to approve marina access, with the mayor stating that if they rejected the bid the state government would take back control and pass it on to a third, unknown party.

My question to the Treasurer is: with up to 200,000 cuttlefish that gather in the area to breed from May to August each year, what will the state government be doing to ensure that the pristine Fitzgerald Bay marine environment is not compromised by the approvals they have granted?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (15:04): The minister has advised me that the Department of Primary Industries and Regions is responsible for the regulation and management of the aquaculture industry in accordance with the act and that the assessment of individual aquaculture licence applications follows a strict set of guidelines and a risk-based assessment based on national best practice. For this particular proposed aquaculture operation at Fitzgerald Bay, a comprehensive ecologically sustainable development risk assessment report was undertaken, along with consideration of the most recent scientific advice and published research.

The applications, I am advised, were also referred to the EPA for approval, as is required by the act, to ensure the proposals meet the objectives of the Environment Protection Act 1993 and associated environment protection policies. These include the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy from 2015.

With appropriate mitigation measures and environmental monitoring programs in place, the risk assessment determined that Clean Seas' applications in Fitzgerald Bay rated as a low risk. To inform the assessment of the Fitzgerald Bay applications, I am told that SARDI undertook oceanographic modelling in 2018 to demonstrate the spatial footprint of aquaculture-related nutrients and other derived organic matter in the Upper Spencer Gulf.

I am further advised that these studies demonstrated nutrient levels are expected to remain well below the Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council 2000 water quality guideline trigger values. The SARDI modelling, I am told, demonstrates a negligible to minimal impact of aquaculture to the west and south of Point Lowly, which is particularly important, I am sure, not only to the honourable member but to others, given the desire of government to protect the giant Australian cuttlefish which aggregate annually south of Point Lowly.

After the assessment, the EPA supported the granting of aquaculture licences to Clean Seas. The minister has provided further detailed information indicating the extent of the work that was done and sharing in the concerns about the potential impacts, but they have undertaken the tasks as they are required to by law.