In December 2010, an Issues Paper on the topic of regional development in South Australia was distributed to Corporate Members.
In the paper, authors Michael O’Neil and Cliff Walsh argue that regional development in South Australia is an agenda without a policy framework or strategy. South Australia’s economic, social and environmental progress depend entirely on the performance of all of its regions – there is no meaningful sense in which “the State” transcends the sum of its regional components. However, the State Government has no overarching regional development strategy and the public sector has tended to engage in tops-down “regionalisation” not “regionalism”. This is clearly reflected in a State Strategic Plan that has only one region-specific target and then only for rural and remote regions. This is all the more disappointing given that more than a decade ago a Task Force on Regional Development in SA proposed strategies that were at the forefront of modern thinking about promoting regional development.
The authors argue that South Australia urgently needs a new commitment to regional development and a new strategy in which the state government facilitates and supports regions to develop aspirations and plans for themselves for their economic, social and environmental development and also develops partnerships which “democratise” decision-making through engagement, consultation and negotitation with regional communities.