Government looks to local contractors for major projects

A REGIONAL civic leader has welcomed news the State Government will employ an industry advocate to ensure work from major government projects flows to local contractors.

Grant District Council chief executive officer Trevor Smart – whose council pushed for local contractors to benefit from the $23m Mount Gambier Prison expansion – said opportunities should be given to contractors from the region given the downturn in some sections of the economy.

His comments come as the State Government undertakes a cluster of new major projects in the Mount Gambier area, including the $27m redevelopment of the Mount Gambier Hospital and the $3.5m new ambulance station.

Mr Smart yesterday described the government announcement as positive given the multi-million-dollar new government projects underway in Mount Gambier.

He said nearly 60pc of the work at the Mount Gambier Prison had been undertaken by local contractors and the trend should continue for other government projects.

“We are still to get the final figure for the Mount Gambier Prison expansion, but that is a great outcome,” Mr Smart said.

He said there had been a major push from regional areas to ensure local communities benefited economically from major government projects.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the move was a response to an increase in the value of contracts being awarded to interstate companies at the expense of local businesses.

“Investing in good, well-paid, secure jobs for South Australians is at the heart of our economic policy,” Mr Weatherill said.

“We want to ensure that South Australia achieves the maximum economic benefit from the $3.8b of contracts let annually by the State Government and that local companies are given every opportunity to win these contracts.”

He said the industry participation advocate would review the impediments companies faced and work with South Australian business and industry associations to increase the number of companies able to meet tender requirements.

Mr Weatherill said the advocate would also work with the procurement board to ensure its policies and practices were not disadvantaging local business.

“The role also will involve liaising with the Commonwealth and other state governments to investigate changes to national and state procurement procedures that reduce impediments local businesses face in winning tenders interstate,” he said.

Meanwhile, Manufacturing, Innovation and Trade Minister Tom Kenyon said the move aimed to strengthen requirements for proponents of major projects to provide full, fair and reasonable opportunities for suppliers to compete for work.

Primary Industries and Regions SA chief executive Ian Nightingale has been appointed to the new position.

“Mr Nightingale brings a wealth of experience to this key position through his senior position with PIRSA and as inaugural chief executive of the Department of Planning and Local Government, where he led the reforms of the state’s planning system,” Mr Kenyon said.

“We’re seeing a period of unprecedented opportunity in South Australia with the State Government investing more than $9b in capital projects over the next four years.”

The advocate will work closely and consult with business, industry, government departments, employer representative groups and unions

MAJOR SPIN-OFFS: Grant District Mayor Richard Sage stands in front of the new cell block at the Mount Gambier Prison. Around 60pc of contract work for the $23m expansion has flowed to South East companies. Picture: ANELIA BLACKIE