SA Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone visited Kangaroo Island on Wednesday, September 12 as part of his State Budget tour around the regions.
Mr Whetstone gave a small crowd gathered at the Kangaroo Island Yacht Club an overview of the 2018-19 State Budget.
Highlights for Kangaroo Island included $20,000 for road safety improvements and also $2 million for the upgrade of the Cape Jervis breakwater over four years.
He said improved facilities at Cape Jervis would increase the number of sailing days for the SeaLink ferry, that would boost visitor numbers and tourism.
He also announced $125,000 for the project to rebuild steps up Prospect Hill, also important for tourism.
The Minister was greeted at the door by Ag KI chairman Richard Morris, who congratulated the State Government for relaxing regulations surrounding small scale abattoirs.
Mr Morris, himself a sheep farmer from Karatta, said getting an abattoir running on KI again would help local farmers sell local meat with KI branding and also mean local restaurants and tourism ventures could offer local produce again.
The office of KI Commissioner Wendy Campana was now in the process of organising a meeting to discuss interest in a small-scale abattoir on KI.
There was some discussion at the meeting about the future of the KI Commissioner and whether the Regional Development Authority would replace her role.
Commisisoner Wendy Campana said the State Budget had provided about $700,000 in funding for her office in 2018-19 budget to allow a transition, and committed to a lesser amount for the following year.
Mayor Peter Clements thanked the Minister for his announcement of $125,000 for Prospect Hill and how getting support for either the Commissioner or a renewed relationship with the RDA was vital for the Island.
Jon Lark from Kangaroo Island Spirits said RDA could do more to involve KI businesses in its programs, and for example could invite KI locals to attend training sessions electronically via online hook-ups.
Mr Whetstone was hosted on his KI visit by Michael Pengilly, who took him to the KIS factory for a tour with Mr Lark.
Shauna Black also spoke about the need to ensure the RDA committed resources to Kangaroo Island.
KI Health Advisory Council presiding member Darren Keenan raised the issue of an acute shortage of aged care residential facilities on KI and how currently there were elderly people in hospital that needed more permanent, long-term housing.
Mr Whetstone acknowledged the problem, and suggested that private enterprise and public private partnerships could build additional aged care housing on KI.
The Minister was thanked for his attendance by Mr Morris, noting that it was an exciting time to be involved in agricukture with excellent prices and lots of innovation.
But he urged the State Government to keep on working on reducing the cost of freight and boosting technology to allow young farmers to take advantage of innovation.
He also said farmers would like to see the role of KI Commissioner continue, or at least an alternative.
“We are looking forward to a good spring and being able to deliver products at some very good prices,” Mr Morris said. “It’s a very exciting time to be in agriculture.”