Govt says report backs its commitment to the country

A centralisation push in recent decades has caused country residents to feel left out of decisions, according to findings from a recent round of regional consultation.

As part of the state's Regional Development Strategy, more than 100 sessions were held at 15 locations around the state, along with submissions received through the YourSAy website, after the release of a discussion paper.

Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said the strategy would "formalise" the government's commitment to the regions.

"This strategy will be the vehicle to create long-lasting frameworks for regional investment and better coordination," he said.

He said that in many ways the report confirmed suspicions that the regions had been neglected and were facing some "challenging population trends and demographics".

"But there are also distinct competitive advantages that our regions possess and we aim to support the communities, which are the lifeblood of our regions, in their choice to work and live in the country while supporting new growth and innovation," he said.

Advisory Panel chair Mark Sutton, who is also chair of Regional Development Australia Far North, said that throughout the engagement sessions there was evidence of "some positives and some opportunities".

"The regions are vibrant and resilient," he said.

"They know opportunity exists, they just need some assistance. What we saw was there hasn't been a lot of love for regions in the past decade or so, at a holistic level - the word we heard a lot was things have been 'rudderless' for some time. Over the years we've seen a centralisation of services into Adelaide so there are no decision-makers left in the regions.

"Local leaders are a little bit annoyed that decisions in Adelaide are made without consultation. People don't like being talked to, they like being talked with."

He said the new health advisory councils, which had just been announced at the time of the consultation, had received a lot of support for putting vital local decisions back into local hands.

Mr Sutton said a common concern from the regions was the inconsistency or lack of telecommunication services.

The engagement report showed it was expressed across all regions.

Other common concerns were sourcing labour, finding employment, the high costs or lack of childcare, inadequate public transport, and the need to leave regional areas to access key educational opportunities.

"Doctor issues came up everywhere, especially on the Eyre Peninsula, where every country town is providing incentives and competing against other country towns," Mr Sutton said.

"Local leaders are a little bit annoyed that decisions in Adelaide are made without consultation. People don't like being talked to, they like being talked with.

But he said it was not "all doom and gloom".

He said there were already a number of positive projects happening at local levels that, with some connectivity between regions, could create momentum and help contribute to the state's growth.

Mr Sutton said the panel took "poetic license" and included examples of the "success stories" they had come across during the consultation in its report.

"There are some really good ideas out there we can use as case studies," he said.

These included the Upper North Farming Systems, praised for "working in a spirit of collaboration ... so that everyone benefits to progress farming in the region".

Another was tafeSA at Whyalla, which has formed relationships with the local high school to help students gain qualifications and begin working faster after finishing school, as well as adapting training to local needs, such as training specifically aimed at those in the pastoral area.

Mr Whetstone said the Community Advisory Panel had distilled the feedback and provided recommendations, with the final strategy to be shared early this year once it had been considered by government.

Recognising that sport clubs can act as the hub of country towns, Champions Academy founder Sarah Powell, Wharminda, saw an opportunity to help build leadership and community participation.

"It is a place where people grow up and learn by example to be a leader," she said.

This program was among those included as a 'success story' in the report.

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