SA's government has brought down a feisty and pretty green budget

The South Australian state budget released last week brought plenty of good news for the property sector, especially sustainable property – with boosts to public transport, cycling infrastructure and public housing, as well as a firm commitment to continued investment in Renewables SA that includes investigating access to public land for this purpose.

SA also stunned the nation with the abolition of stamp duty for non-residential property transactions amid a range of measures designed to attract more business to the state, perhaps even some from the “top end of town” .

Property Council SA executive director Daniel Gannon said axing the stamp duty on non-residential property was a winner.

It sent a “strong message of confidence to South Australia’s small- and medium-sized enterprises, along with our state’s family business sector,” Mr Gannon said.

The tax will be phased out over three years from June 2016, with savings on a $5 million commercial property worth around $268,830.

“As it stands, our state does not boast a ‘top end of town,’ but this decision might encourage just that – and this means jobs, prosperity and strong local communities,” Mr Gannon said.

PCA SA said the state’s property sector employed more than 168,000 people and represented 11 per cent of Gross State Product and about 42 per cent of state taxes.

Acting on the Citizens’ Jury cycling verdict

Among measures to boost the greening of the city was an agreement to fund Citizens’ Jury recommendations with a $6.5 million allocation to improve cycling and walking infrastructure such as bike boulevards and greenways.

Bicycle boulevards were an attractive option for inner city suburbs where space is limited for cycling facilities on main roads, Treasurer,Tom Koutsantonis said.

“We will work with local councils to identify high-priority projects in their areas which will benefit from this investment.”

Cycle infrastructure such as shared paths and footbridges will also be integrated into the O-Bahn City Access project, which will see the guided O-Bahn busway extended into the city centre.

The busway project was allocated $65 million as part of a package of public transport upgrades that also include the electrification of the Seaforth passenger rail line.

SA still hearts its renewables

The state government restated its commitment to renewable energy projects. It estimated 1330 direct jobs had been created in the sector, thank to the state’s “streamlined planning and approvals process” and world-class wind resources.

The budget papers state that the government will continue with its Low Carbon Energy Investment Plan, which aims to achieve an investment target of $10 billion in low carbon generation by 2025, and an increase in direct jobs in the sector to 4000.

Other sustainability highlights in the budget included:

  • A commitment to finalise the Building Upgrade Finance project
  • Develop a new climate change strategy for South Australia in consultation with key stakeholders and the community that responds to the impacts of climate change and supports a transition to a low carbon economy
  • Develop a carbon neutral Adelaide Green Zone action plan in consultation with Adelaide City Council.
  • Finalise an Urban Water Plan for Greater Adelaide as an integrated management approach to urban water resources
  • Launch the Green Infrastructure Working Paper and the Living Adelaide Initiative outlining a vision and identifying opportunities for green infrastructure in South Australia
  • Department of Natural Resources to nominate options to enable renewable energy developers to access Crown owned land used for pastoral purposes
  • The coordination of a Commonwealth funded community grants program for the creation of rain gardens to improve stormwater quality
  • Review the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007

Stamp duty cuts to attract investment part of the state of attraction

SA state’s treasurer, Tom Koutsantonis said more than 6800 property transactions a year will benefit from the stamp duty change.

Stamp duty is also to be abolished on non-real commercial transactions such as sales of Intellectual property, plant and equipment.

Attracting investment and new industry

The stamp duty move and that relating to non-real transactions complement another significant announcement – $15 million over two years for an Investment Attraction Fund to be administered by a newly established investment arm reporting to the Investment and Trade Minister.

“We can no longer rely on high commodity prices or the support of the federal government in sustaining our auto-manufacturing and naval shipbuilding industries,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

South Australia needed to forge its own future and attract investment in new and growth industries to create jobs for young people those who needed a new career, he said.

“We will be working to attract capital to growth sectors, establish new head offices of international firms and facilitate the start-up of new industries.”

Investment and Trade minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said once the new investment arm was established, it would lead all major investment attraction activity by developing and marketing suitable projects and proactively identifying and facilitating potential investment.

This would build on existing capabilities in sectors such as agribusiness, resources, health, services and advanced manufacturing.

“South Australia will not grasp the opportunities of the future without attracting significant foreign direct investment into South Australia,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.

Boosting the residential property sector

Initiatives to boost property activity that will be continued include the partial stamp duty concession of up to $15,500 for eligible purchases of off-the-plan apartments; the $15,000 First Home Buyers Grant; and an $8500 Seniors Housing Grant for over-60s buyers of new homes.

The budget also brought forward spending on renovations and strategic redevelopment of South Australian Housing Trust Homes. The government said the $65 million package was expected to create 1600 jobs in the construction sector and deliver a more appropriate and sustainable mix of affordable housing options.

Housing and Urban Development minister John Rau said the state government will also focus on urban renewal prospects within 10 kilometres of the Adelaide CBD.

The move would create greater diversity in communities where public and social housing exist, Mr Rau said.

Planning reform: watch this space

Mr Rau said the investment also complements the state government’s broader reform agenda in the planning and development sector expected within months.

Other urban planning commitments include:

  • An update of the 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide
  • Finalise up-zonings of residential land to boost infill supply and promote renewal of inner suburban areas
  • Retail zoning reviews to promote competition and remove barriers to investment
  • A program to promote activation of underutilised buildings.
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