South Australian budget 2016-17: country schools, roads, Whyalla headline regional spending

Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis.
Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis.

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Schools, roads and struggling communities will each receive tens of millions of dollars worth of investment in 2016-17, the state government has revealed in its budget.

The government will spend $384 million on upgrades and new projects in country areas.

Schools will receive almost a third of that amount: $106.5 million to refurbish science, technology, engineering and mathematics classrooms and equipment in schools outside Adelaide, and $14.9 million for other facility upgrades.

Roads maintenance will be another big-ticket item, worth $64 million.

Whyalla will receive about $70 million worth of support as the city reels from the ongoing threat to its steelworks; Leigh Creek will receive more than $20 million; and Port Pirie's Memorial Oval will get a multi-million dollar facelift.

The big numbers pale in comparison with the government's $12 billion overall infrastructure spend, especially given that almost a third of all South Australians live outside Adelaide.

But Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said country residents were still getting their fair share.

"They (regions) get more than we earn from them," he said.

"We've never collected $50 million in a year from Whyalla."

He argued that statewide measures such as a payroll tax rebate for small business and stamp duty reductions for new apartments would benefit the regions just as much as the city.

He also pointed to the government's $291 million underwriting of the Nyrstar smelter expansion in Port Pirie and the $15 million per year Regional Development Fund as examples of its generosity.

Other regional spending will provide for:

  • the South East flows restoration project, returning water to the southern Coorong ($50.1 million)
  • the Murray Futures program, aiding drought recovery ($34.3 million over three years)
  • 198 new beds at the Mobilong, Port Augusta and Mount Gambier prisons ($32.1 million)
  • a jetty at Port Bonython ($9.6 million)
  • Kangaroo Island's airport ($9 million over three years)
  • grants for financial relief, clean-up and recovery from the Pinery bushfire, and case management and mental health services ($8.5 million over three years)
  • streamlining regional court procedures and reducing a backlog of cases that wind up in the District Court ($4.5 million)
  • consultation about the nuclear fuel cycle, including visits to more than 60 towns ($3.6 million)

There will also be investment in Aboriginal regional authorities, State Emergency Service volunteers, state parks, remote air strips and an Indigenous pastoral program in the far north.

Mobile black spots will get just $1 million, despite criticism from federal MPs whose government has long promised to match state contributions dollar for dollar.