In my mid-February update, I thanked all who sent supportive messages following the news of my shift out of the Liberal Shadow Cabinet. In this column I extend sincere thanks to the many who have contacted me following my decision to retire in a little over 12 months, and not contest the March 2018 State election.
The local reaction has been personally overwhelming and I continue to feel grateful and humbled by all the messages received. In my near 11 years as the proud Member for Goyder, I feel satisfied that I have done all I can to pursue the needs and opportunities for my community. Pre-selection for Goyder closes on 24 March and I have no doubt that a strong field will nominate.
In the meantime, be assured it is business as usual for me and electorate office staff. In the last month, aside from two Parliamentary Sitting Weeks and a 3 day Liberal seminar in Mount Gambier, I have been kept busy with issues affecting Goyder people. These have included concerns about hospital, ambulance, police and coastal patrol services, power prices and supply, school bus services, PATS, the Ice epidemic, fishing regulations, boat ramp maintenance, driver licensing regulations, the current review of the State's mining acts, and roads.
Of the latter, I was very disappointed to be informed the proposed Federation Corner roundabout is to remain a single lane design despite local advocacy for a Copper Coast traffic slip lane to be added to improve traffic flow. The local Mayors, CEOs and I had been hopeful that our meeting with Minister Mullighan back in October on the issue would prove fruitful but alas, it did not.
Whilst I welcome the investment of $4 million for this roundabout, I believe if you are going to do the work make sure it actually improves the situation - and I have serious doubts the selected design will do that.
Another very disappointing issue was the announcement in late February that general surgery, gynaecology and urology services are to cease at Yorketown Hospital from 1 April 2017. As it is State Government policy that all departments, agencies and statutory bodies must prepare and publish Regional Impact Assessment Statements (RIAS) before implementing such significant service change, I have lodged Freedom of Information requests for these documents, and details of the public consultation undertaken prior to this decision.
Minister for Regional Development Geoff Brock would have had to sign off on this required RIAS, so it was not heartening to read his response (last week's YP Country Times) of, "not my portfolio area" so not his responsibility.
I also still await a reply to correspondence sent 24 February to the Minister for Health Jack Snelling, requesting a briefing. I share concerns that this decision appears to be more about a lack of government investment (and planning ahead), and little to do with a lack of skilled staff. Dollars should never get in the way of good health service provision in the regions.
Better news (albeit, a little ironic) was the Federal Government announcement on 10 February that Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey had successfully lobbied for $355,000 for upgrades to 13 airstrips in the electorate, among them Yorketown airstrip - to improve access for SYP people to essential health care services.
The Marshall Liberal team continues to roll out policies now that the next State election is just 12 months away, recent topics including support for lessees of shacks on Crown Land; medicinal cannabis access; and health policy recognising the need for local Health Advisory Councils to have stronger input into local health service decision-making - a plan I particularly welcome, and one which would have meant a different outcome for Yorketown Hospital.
On 25 February, State Liberal Leader Steven Marshall, with Donna and I, visited the Balco site to see progress of the clean up after the devastating fire there on 28 January. I commend CEO Rob Lawson and all staff who continue to work through their rebuilding plan in such a positive way.
I also commend the continuing work of Virginia resident Rina Centofanti who is surveying and collecting signatures for a public bus service for the Adelaide Plains region. Transport is a key issue for people no matter where they live, and public transport can, and should, happen in the regions. For more information on Rina's initiative, visit http://www.AdelaidePlainsBusRoute.com
Numerous 2017 grant programs are now open, among them Sport & Rec Active Club, Volunteers and Road Safety initiatives, Community Heritage, and the Regional Capability Community Fund. For guidelines and application forms visit the Grants tab on this website, and for further assistance - including requesting a letter of support from me to supplement your applications - contact the Goyder office at Maitland.
Finally, how great it was to hear of the well deserved accolades at the recent SA Country Press Awards for two Goyder electorate independently owned newspapers - the Yorke Peninsula Country Times and the Plains Producer.
For both to be named Best Newspaper in their respective circulation categories is no small thing, and is testament to both team's dedication to hard work, and outstanding commitment to serving their communities well. Congratulations.