‘Drop in the ocean’: Cash call to fix SA jetties

The Local Government Association is calling for more taxpayer funding to maintain South Australia’s jetties – but the state government says it has already budgeted millions and that council underinvestment has contributed to their decline.

Feb 05, 2024, updated Feb 05, 2024
The LGA wants the State Government to spend more on jetty maintenance. Photo: supplied.

The LGA wants the State Government to spend more on jetty maintenance. Photo: supplied.

After a report highlighted the economic importance of jetties, the LGA said it wanted the state government to invest more on maintenance – something the government says is the responsibility of councils, to which they lease the jetties.

The LGA report found 81 per cent of survey respondents felt the state government should have financial responsibility for jetty maintenance.

Respondents, on average, visited a jetty 44 times each year, spending between $26 to $50 each time.

Yorke Peninsula Council Mayor Darren Braund said the government currently offers conditional funding, some of which requires councils to be locked into deals for 15 years or more.

“Essentially, some councils are being told ‘you can have some funding upfront, but only if you continue looking after these jetties long-term’,” Braund said.

“Think of it like renting a house; as a tenant, you’d be ill-advised to lock into a decade-long lease if your roof is caving in and bathroom is rotting, without any assurance from the landlord they will help fund ongoing structural repairs.

“This is what some councils are being asked to do in order to receive funding from the state government, and we think a better deal needs to be reached.”

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis said that while it was “refreshing” to see the LGA “advocating on issues that genuinely affect their councils and ratepayers”, the government had invested $20 million in the last state budget and “the LGA is still not happy”.

“We have always been clear – we expect councils to demonstrate a willingness to pay their share. Councils have been contractually obliged under long term lease arrangements going back decades to maintain their jetties,” Koutsantonis said.

“Because of their lack of investment, assets they have been entrusted to maintain have been allowed to deteriorate, and in some cases even close – and these councils now believe it is up to taxpayers to step in, while blaming the State Government for their own failure to fulfil their obligations.

“Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly agree with the LGA about the importance and value of jetties, which is why we committed this significant funding in the last state budget to help repair and restore those most in need.”

Yorke Peninsula Mayor Darren Braund says the State Government needs to provide additional funding for jetty maintenance. Photo: supplied

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LGA President Mayor Dean Johnson said the government’s previous funding was not enough.

“The State Government committed $20 million over the next four years in the budget, which has shrunk to $10 million for council-leased jetties – frankly it’s a drop in the ocean in terms of the amount of funding needed to make a real difference,” Johnson said.

“Councils are collectively spending around $2 million each year to take care of these assets so they can be enjoyed by locals and visitors to our coastal regions, but they don’t have the capacity to fund repairs alone.”

The majority of respondents to LGA’s survey felt the state government should have financial responsibility for jetty maintenance, such as this one at Rapid Bay. Photo: Stephanie Russell

Johnson said the LGA report data showed jetties are a significant economic stimulus.

When people visit jetties, not only are they improving their mental and physical wellbeing through exercise and enjoying the fresh air, but they’re also stopping by the local café, restaurant or caravan park and spending money with local businesses,” Johnson said.

Half of all respondents in the report had safety concerns or various improvements they felt were needed, including lack of railings, uneven slats, rusting and rotting.

The major cost drivers identified include pylon replacement, deck repairs, lighting, and storm damage.

The LGA has been tasked by the 68 councils it represents to negotiate lease agreements with the state government regarding future jetty management.

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