Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone has responded to claims that he has snubbed the Upper Spencer Gulf Mayors.
While Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson, Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer and Port Pirie Mayor John Rohde feel as though the Minister has shown no interest in the region, Mr Whetstone said he was available to meet with the Mayors during a recent visit.
Mr Johnson said the Mayors wrote to every Minister after the March election to provide an update on the region’s challenges and opportunities.
“ … It is disappointing that, some six months after the election, we have still not been able to meet with the new Minister for Regional Development,” he said.
The Minister visited the Upper Spencer Gulf this week as part of his regional state budget tour.
The three Mayors were offered a timeslot to meet with the Minister, but were reportedly given less than a week’s notice and were unable to attend due to prior commitments.
However, Minister Whetstone said he welcomes opportunities to meet with all of South Australia’s 50 regional councils.
“This week I have visited Port Augusta, Whyalla and the Port Pirie Regional Council areas and was available to meet with Mayors and Councillors to brief them on the benefits of the Marshall Liberal government’s state budget and discuss any issues they may have wanted to raise,” Mr Whetstone said.
“It is unfortunate the Port Augusta Mayor was not available to meet.”
Frustration has been building in the Upper Spencer Gulf after requests to meet with other Ministers to discuss key issues around skills, education and training had been referred to Minister Whetstone.
Mayor Johnson said the difficulties to meet with the Regional Development Minister had caused a stalemate.
“Arguably there is no other region in South Australia that is facing such a massive economic transition and contributes as much to the state economy as the Upper Spencer Gulf,” he said.
“We have a significant workforce and skills issue looming in the Upper Spencer Gulf, we have the Uni Hub commencing next year and we have a number of key initiatives that we are seeking support from government on.”
Despite the comments from the Mayors, Minister Whetstone remains open to a meeting.
“Liberal Ministers are frequently visiting the regions and I am willing to meet with the Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla councils during future visits to those cities,” he said.
Mayor Breuer highlighted the importance of forming a strong relationship with the government to build on the region’s bright future.
“We have a number of fabulous economic investments in our region and we now need to make sure we do everything we can to provide the workforce, services and infrastructure at a community level to support them,” she said.
“That will require a strong level of engagement and partnership effort by all levels of government.”
Presiding members in the Limestone Coast, Eyre Peninsula, Mid North, Murraylands and Riverlands, and Southern and Hills have all reiterated the Upper Spencer Gulf Mayors’ disappointment, claiming the new Minister had declined to meet with them.
The local government regional associations had made a request to hold discussions with Mr Whetstone about the new state government’s vision for the regions.