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Key Issues for Hammond
1) Water - River Murray/Lower Lakes
Water continues to be of major concern throughout the electorate. A long term strategy to ensure the health of the River Murray and Lower Lakes is yet to be determined. The outcome of the Murray Darling Basin Plan has been announced but is yet to be finalised. One thing is, however certain, a balance between the needs of irrigators and the environment is urgently needed to save the life of our beautiful river. A minimum 3,000 gigalitres of environmental flow must be brokered to keep the system healthy. The health of the River Murray and Lower Lakes is not only important in the ongoing economic health of a community that derives a great deal of its wealth from agriculture and its associated service industries but is also greatly important to the local Narrindjerri people who derive cultural and spiritual identity from them. Ground water is also of interest in the Hammond electorate. Productivity in some areas has increased due to the introduction of irrigated crops particularly potatoes and onions. The management of water licences and the increased use of ground water by agriculture will require careful observation in the future to ensure a balance between irrigation and stock water use.
2) Branched Broomrape
The removal of federal funding for the Branched Broomrape strategy is of enormous concern throughout the electorate of Hammond and beyond. Branched Broomrape is a noxious weed with the potential to spread rapidly unchecked and to decimate agricultural production in this state. Since 2002, $45 million of State and Federal money has been expended in an eradication program which has seen branched broomrape contained to a surveyed area of 70 kilometres square or almost 5000 sq km. This does not include the estimated $65 million that producers themselves have contributed towards the eradication of this weed. As yet it is not fully understood how this will impact local and export markets, however, the potential is there for these to be devastated should containment areas be removed. It defies logic to remove a program that has been successful in containing and eradicating a noxious weed and protecting the state’s agricultural interests. This is yet another example of the current government, removing money from the regions to pay for their big spending city projects without forethought of the long term consequences of their actions.
Health is a basic Human Right according to the World Health Organisation. As a fundamental right for all in this country it should also follow that access to good quality health care should be available to all the citizens of this state regardless of their geographical location. Whilst acknowledging that it is not economically or professionally viable for some smaller facilities to safely provide some of the more technologically advanced medical interventions, it should be an imperative that we all have access to Accident and Emergency Services, basic acute medical services , GP services, allied health services and community health services within a reasonable distance. The staff that work in our health services deserve support through adequate staffing levels and ongoing training and development. Our ageing hospital facilities deserve upgrading as much as our larger city counterparts. Our health services require adequate government funding to assist with basic infrastructure upgrades and repair instead of relying on volunteer fundraising to keep our hospitals on their feet. No more buckets under leaking ceilings!
It is the responsibility of government to provide educational opportunities and to ensure our students, parents and educators are resourced, supported and encouraged to achieve their full potential. With proposed amalgamations our country children are again the victims of a centralised system of beurocracy that sees essential decisions about how education is delivered made by metropolitan based beurocrats. Our schools should be able to manage their resources in a way that embraces the unique population and geographical challenges they face in order to provide the best possible learning environment.
5) Food Security
Simply, food security refers to the ability to access affordable food. More importantly it also refers to our ability to produce enough food for our own population. There are many facets to the threats to our food security. The government's inability to solve ongoing issues with access to water has diminished our ability to produce fruit and has had a devastating effect on our local dairy industry. Allowing residential development in prime agricultural areas of the state further threatens our ability to produce food. Furthermore, the inability of this government to grasp the potential threats to local agriculture by allowing the importation of foreign fresh produce and proposed abandonment of the Branched Broomrape strategy, threatens the ongoing security of our agricultural interests. Financial imposts on the agricultural sector through biosecurity levies further threaten the industry's ability to continue producing affordable and competitive products. South Australia also has a large export role in this sector which positively contributes to the state’s economy. Continuing to ignore the security of our primary producers could not only impact our health through the importation of inferior foreign produce but also the economy by driving up the price of fresh produce and cutting our export earnings.
6) The future of rural life
The metrocentric approach of the current government threatens to impact heavily on the rural way of life. The centralisation of services takes valuable employment away from regional centres. The reduced amount of opportunities our school leavers and younger people have for employment forces them to look to the metropolitan area for their futures. This potentially takes a large proportion of the younger generations away from country areas thus impacting on social and sporting enterprises in our towns. The hardship of recent years in farming has provided a disincentive for many younger men and women wishing to join farming as a career. A dearth of younger families in our districts will impact on the level of education and health facilities, as well as further impacting social and sporting clubs. There will be less people available and interested for essential services run by volunteers such as SAAS, CFS, SES etc. Our once vibrant communities and the lifestyle that we currently embrace will be depleted permanently.