Our Chief Executive Craig Wilkins unpacks the new State Budget and what it means for SA's environment.
This year’s state budget comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and at the beginning of another dangerous fire season.
There is welcome new investment in our national parks. However, the focus is on visitor infrastructure and bushfire preparation and recovery, not on biodiversity protection.
There is an overwhelming focus on roads over public transport. And in a highly controversial move, the State Government intends to start putting additional road user charges on electric vehicles – completely counter to what is happening in other countries.
On the plus side, there is some further welcome investment in our state’s energy transition.
- A record spend on road infrastructure - $6.9 Billion over the next 4 years
- Plus, an additional $8.9 Billion on South Road
- Out of $420 million new transport project spending this year, less than 5% is on public transport
“It’s deeply disappointing that in a budget with the ‘biggest public infrastructure program in our state’s history’ there is hardly any mention of public transport.
“In fact, less than 5% of new transport infrastructure spending in today’s budget is on public transport, cycling and walking.
“In South Australia cars remain king at great social, economic and environmental cost.
“At least $8.9 Billion will be spent on a single road. The completion of the North-South Motorway will be a massive, hyper expensive black hole which will not deliver the expected savings in congestion.
“Instead it will encourage more car travel and suck up every available bit of money and attention from our state’s transport department for the next decade.
Electric Vehicle Charge
- A controversial new proposal to start charging electric vehicle owners.
- If it passes Parliament, it will be in place from July 1 2021
“The announcement of a new road user charge for electric vehicles is bad public policy and completely at odds with other countries who are removing taxes and charges to encourage uptake.
“Last week, the Marshall Government was praised for investing in new electric vehicle charging infrastructure and fleet. This is going in exactly the opposite direction.
“We need to urgently fast-track the uptake of electric vehicles, not slow it down.
“And taxing electric vehicle owners doesn’t add up. Everyone benefits with the change over from dirty combustion engines to clean electric vehicles through cleaner air and lower hospital admissions.
“This is going to be highly controversial and deeply contested.
Conservation and Parks
- New investment in National Parks - $130 million over next 4 years.
- $45 million will be spent on rebuilding tourism attractions on KI
- $44 million is for the Parks 2025 initiative, which has an overwhelming focus on upgrading visitor infrastructure. See: https://www.parks.sa.gov.au/park-management/parks2025
- $28 million will be spent on increasing prescribed burns in our Parks system.
- $9 million is for restoring buildings in the Botanic Gardens
“There is welcome new investment in our national parks, including the previously announced Parks 2025 initiative.
“However, the vast majority of new spending is on visitor facilities, preparatory burning and bushfire infrastructure recovery.
“What we aren’t seeing is enough investment on looking after the reason we have parks in the first place – our wonderful native plants and animals and spectacular nature places.
“A range of conservation and farming groups proposed a major COVID-stimulus jobs spend backed by EY research which focused on getting young people out into the bush clearing weeds, planting trees, increasing land productivity and helping with the bushfire recovery.
“The government has chosen not to put new money into that exciting proposal, and that’s a massive missed opportunity.
“And we mustn’t forget that millions of dollars of savings targets are still washing through the Environment Department’s budget, which has a huge impact on their ability to look after our parks system, beaches, bush and other nature assets.
“On the plus side, it’s great to see the first funding flow through to the re-invigorated program to fund nature protection on private land.
- First tranche of funding for the Electric Vehicle Action Plan, including $18.3 million to leverage private investment in a fast charging network, smart vehicle trials and Government fleet purchasing
- $60 million investment to improve the energy efficiency of government buildings (the largest Govt retrofit project per capita in the country).
- $8.5 million to roll out solar and battery on the APY Lands
- $18 million extension of the Home Battery Scheme
- $5.2 investment in solar systems to low income households
“This is a great initiative that will create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower the government’s energy and maintenance bills.
“Climate change preparation and mitigation remains a massive budget blind spot – particularly the growth in transport emissions.
“The economic upheaval from climate change will dwarf the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last summer’s bushfires were a frightening taste of what is to come.
“The SA Government needs to do far more through the state budget process to reduce emissions and prepare the community.”
For further information, contact Conservation SA on 08 8223 5155