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There are several issues that are specific to the electorate of Chaffey and, which have implications for other regional areas and South Australia as a whole.
Water and the River Murray
Much of Chaffey's economy relies heavily on secure water from the River Murray for irrigation, and on a healthy river system. Tim's most important priority is to ensure that irrigators in the region get a fair water deal now and into the future.
Of particular concern is the distribution of water resources within the Murray-Darling Basin for environmental purposes, critical human needs, irrigation, industry and community needs. Tim supports a Basin Plan that delivers a balanced outcome: improved environmental flows that support a healthy Murray-Darling river system, and improved water security that supports sustainable food production and regional communities.
Tim believes a balanced outcome for the Murray-Darling Basin requires a balanced approach to water reform. This requires the adoption by the Murray Darling Basin Authority and the Federal Government of a principle whereby, in the first instance, recovering water for the environment should not compromise food production and regional communities.
While the Murray Darling Basin Plan has been signed, there is still much work to be done. Tim's position is that irrigators in Chaffey and the rest of South Australia should not be required to give up any water in view of their efficiency. In the event that irrigators are required to give up water under the Basin Plan, they should be fully compensated for it.
Tim also strongly advocates greater investment by irrigators and Federal and State governments in efficient irrigation infrastructure upstream of South Australia – particularly the rehabilitation of highly inefficient open, unlined irrigation channels in New South Wales and Victoria, and accurate metering of all irrigators across the Murray-Darling Basin.
Tim also believes the State Government must provide greater transparency and certainty to irrigators when it comes to allocating water. At present, the Government's water allocation framework makes it very difficult for irrigators to plan for the future of their business and to manage the risks associated with it.
Keeping the Riverland and Mallee fruit fly free
South Australia is the only mainland State that is free of fruit fly. This is a valuable marketing tool for our region’s food producers and vital in their ability to access key export markets.
In 2014 the threat from Queensland and Mediterranean fruit fly to South Australia’s biosecurity is at unprecedented levels. It currently costs approximately $5 million per annum to maintain our fruit fly free status, but food producing are concerned at the impact of red tape and bureaucracy on biosecurity.
Tim is committed to the constant battle required to keep the pest out of South Australia. In 2010, for example, the State Labor Government proposed cutting the night shift at the 24-hour permanent Yamba quarantine station. Tim and the local community campaigned against this decision and finally the Government reversed its decision.
PIRSA has stated that a single outbreak in the Riverland would cost $2 million to contain and eradicate and potentially deny Riverland fruit industries access to lucrative export markets, of which has taken exporters much time, money, effort and risk to access. An outbreak would also impose significant treatment costs on fresh produce, reducing returns to growers.
Loxton Research Centre
The Riverland is a world-class horticultural region thanks in part to the efforts of scientists and agronomists who were based at the Loxton Research Centre. Among other innovations, the centre introduced new crop varieties, efficient irrigation technology and measures to manage increasing salinity, and provided practical agronomic advice to local growers.
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Some research still takes place, but the centre's contribution to the region's horticultural industries has diminished greatly.
With local growers struggling with reduced water allocations, a high Australian dollar and low commodity prices, it's important for Chaffey's economy that they be given other support. They're already world leaders in efficient irrigation, but with renewed support from a reinvigorated Loxton Research Centre they can become world leaders in efficient food production as well.
Horticultural research is undertaken in other parts of Australia but it is vitally important that such research takes place in the Riverland. Growers are much more likely to adopt research outcomes when they are achieved locally. Research outcomes from Loxton could also be a valuable export product for the region in themselves.
Tim believes there must be a renewed commitment to funding regional horticultural and agricultural research, and that this commitment must be long-term as projects which improve the sustainability and productivity of these industries takes a long time.
With a $400 million backlog in road maintenance across South Australia, roads in the Riverland and Mallee have suffered as a result. Thousands of heavy and light vehicles travel along main roads in the region daily. Road access is crucial for many agricultural and horticultural industries to transport produce to market. Tim is continually working with both State and Federal Governments to access funding to fix road maintenance and black spots.
Riverland Motorsport and Driver Training Complex
Tim fully supports the establishment of the proposed Riverland Motorsport and Driver Training Complex at the Riverland Field Days permanent site near Barmera. Primarily the complex would provide a facility for young drivers to gain the experience they need to survive on our roads. Motorists in Chaffey must contend with unsealed roads, poorly maintained roads and a national highway with increasing freight traffic, and the best way to ensure they are as safe as possible is to give them training and experience in these conditions.
The complex would not only provide a facility for young drivers but also for Government departments and private companies which conduct defensive driving courses for their employees. The complex could become a regional hub for this purpose, creating a whole new industry in Chaffey.
The complex would also serve as the home for the Riverland Motorsports Club and the venue for several drag racing meets every year sanctioned by the Australian National Drag Racing Association. This is a growing sport that is taking off in other regional communities and represents a valuable tourism opportunity for Chaffey.
Riverland General Hospital redevelopment
Initially the Labor State Government allocated $41 million to a redevelopment of the Riverland General Hospital at Berri. In the 2012-13 Budget, the Labor Government cut funding to the redevelopment to $36 million citing efficiencies in the construction process. Tim was critical of this funding realignment and voiced caution that services must not be reduced from the original upgrade as a result.
In late 2013 it was also revealed that the State Labor Government was relying on the local community to raise tens of thousands of dollars to furnish the brand new chemotherapy unit. This is despite the Government including the new, four chair unit in its initial announcement.
Local health groups have raised concerns about ageing areas of the hospital and areas that were to be upgraded or updated as part of the $41 million redevelopment. Tim continues to advocate for residents on issues surrounding the redevelopment and has criticised the State Labor Government for its broken promises on funding.
Tim believes it is important that all regional hospitals remain relevant in the Riverland and Mallee with the centralisation of services to the general hospital in Berri.
The electorate of Chaffey has innovative tourism operators and diverse tourism offerings, and Tim is a strong advocate of further exploring and achieving the region's potential as a tourist destination.
Eco-tourism and food and wine tourism are growing sectors which Tim believes the electorate can tap into and attract more tourists. Tim also advocates greater networking between the region's tourism operators, so that tourists who visit one attraction are referred to others.
Tim works closely with the region’s peak tourism body, Destination Riverland, which has a strong focus on event tourism.
Chaffey is home to more than 4000 small businesses that are the backbone of the region’s economy. South Australia has a challenging business environment with high input costs and a reducing regional population.
Tim believes it's more important than ever that job opportunities are improved and new job opportunities are created in the region. Tim actively explores all possible avenues to improve job opportunities in Chaffey, particularly the delivery of a fair water deal for irrigators to provide positive economic flow-on effects.
Supporting our small business operators is crucial for the future of the region and reducing the red tape these businesses face is vital.
The not for profit sector is also very important to Chaffey and Tim is working hard to ensure we continue to encourage and support our volunteers.
One of the Riverland's greatest strengths is the high quality of the fresh food produced in the region, and Tim is a strong advocate of regional labelling and promotion of these products to Australian and overseas consumers. Building on important attributes such as clean, safe, green and fresh production of high quality fresh food and local food products in labelling and promotion will help to grow consumer awareness and demand for Riverland products.
Tim said working to increase exports for the region’s food producers is another important initiative with domestic and international markets providing much potential.
Retaining young people in Chaffey
Retaining young people is vitally important to the future and sustainability of regional areas like Chaffey. 'Urban drift' is an unfortunate fact of life in many regional areas as young people head for the city seeking employment and education opportunities unavailable to them in the country.
Young people must have the incentives, job opportunities, education options, facilities and services in Chaffey which make them want to stay and raise young families. There are opportunities to continue to grow apprentice and trainee numbers and Tim is working hard to continue to find opportunities to retain youth in Chaffey.
Cost of living
Riverland and Mallee residents are paying thousands of dollars extra in Government taxes, charges and utilities, putting more strain on families. Major household fees and charges continue to outpace inflation. Utilities and other household bills are becoming harder and harder to pay. The cost of water and electricity has skyrocketed under the State Labor Government.
Tim understands that cost of living relief is much needed, and where this is funded by the State Government, it must be done in a manner that is affordable for taxpayers.
There is no better example of Labor’s financial mismanagement than the desalination plant. As recently as 2007, the State Labor Government indicated that there was no need for a desalination plant. Then, Labor announced a $1.4 billion 50 gigalitre desalination plant. Next, Labor announced a doubling of the desalination plant capacity to 100 gigalitres at a total cost of $2.2 billion. The Commonwealth Auditor General subsequently indicated that there was no business case for this decision. Labor then revealed its plan to mothball the desalination plant as the Weatherill Labor Government revealed that it is not needed. The desalination debacle has been chiefly responsible for water bills increasing by 227 per cent under Labor. This means that the average South Australian household is $536 worse off each year now, compared to 2002 because of rising water bills. Households are crying out for relief on their water bills.