Ag integration critical for prosperity plans

Mar 28, 2024 | Column

Energy and water are shaping up as significant issues at both a state and national level this year, particularly as the state government touts major investments in the north of SA.

I was privy to a presentation from Premier Peter Malinauskas recently on the State Prosperity Project.

At a packed-out venue at Port Pirie, with senior ministers also in attendance, we heard a pitch from the Premier on the project, which he says will drive a new era of prosperity for decades to come.

Copper, Northern Water, green iron, the Hydrogen Jobs Plan, the Port Bonython Hydrogen Export Hub and the Port Augusta Technical College are all key parts of the State Prosperity Project to capture what the Premier calls a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

This is a very exciting prospect for the state and the Premier’s speech gave me significant cause for reflection.

We wholeheartedly welcome any investment that creates growth in regional areas – in this case, the Upper Spencer Gulf region.

It gave me a great insight into many of the challenges we face getting agriculture, food and forestry on state and federal agendas.

The Northern Water project is exciting and the benefits to the resources sector from such a project are huge.

A critical element that should be a key part of the State Prosperity Project is a broader consideration as to how this integrates with other significant industries like agriculture at a state level.

We don’t want to suddenly decimate the labour opportunities in primary industries in the northern parts of the state at the cost of this new development.

A project like this presents a great example of what we collectively need to address if we are to conceive, present and/or stimulate a state plan for agriculture that might feed into everyone’s thinking ahead of the next election.

Our industries account for more than 50 per cent of SA’s merchandise exports, employ more people than making submarines ever will, and are a significant part of a circular economy where jobs do not run out when mined resources do.

The options our industries create for responding to climate variability and growing a greener economy ought to make this an easy sell and our deployment of technology is mind-blowing … except no one knows about most of it.

We need to work together to raise community awareness of our sectors and the future-facing opportunities being harnessed, and to rebuild the rationale for investment in research and development, a skilled workforce and technology.

Community recognition of their dependence on the supply chains we sustain was rekindled somewhat during COVID.

PPSA will work to harness that recognition and deliver a vision that shows why our industries matter.

We will demonstrate why they are economically important for this state and hold the key to SA’s future, to the jobs of tomorrow, and to all SA communities.

This column was written by PPSA Chair Professor Simon Maddocks and originally appeared in the 28 March 2024 edition of Stock Journal.

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