Fiscal measures announced for Port Augusta to curb anti-social behavior

The mayor of Port Augusta has called for an overhaul of the approach to tackling anti-social behavior in the city as a deleted but popular program has attracted new funding.

South Australia’s new government has allocated $1.2 million over four years to relaunch the City Safe program aimed at controlling anti-social behavior in the Port Augusta CBD.

Port Augusta City Council Mayor Brett Benbow said the announcement was fantastic.

“I look forward to working with the state government to format this [program],” he said.

Mr. Benbow said the cost of running City Safe per year was around $300,000, which was for employees and other operational costs.

The sometimes controversial program was scrapped in 2020 after Port Augusta City Council said it was no longer financially viable to fall back on itself.

He said he might eventually take on a new name, but he hoped it would also bring an entirely different, more collaborative approach.

Mr Benbow welcomed state government funding for a City Safe-style scheme. (ABC News: Gabriella Marchant.)

“The antisocial behavior problem that we have right now needs to be dealt with by someone with authority,” he said.

Additional beds at the rehabilitation center

In addition, the state budget also revealed that $3.4 million would go to drug and alcohol rehabilitation beds in Port Augusta.

Scott Wilson, Executive Director of the Native Council on Drugs and Alcohol, oversees Port Augusta’s Footsteps Rehabilitation Center and Stepping Stones Day Center.

He said the new beds would create more availability at Footsteps.

However, Mr Wilson said they would also need more funding for staff to handle the additional customers.

“We would need to employ a few more support workers to balance the staff-to-customer ratio,” Wilson said.

“And that means [these beds] would give people in that area more options.”

But Mr Wilson said other crucial social services, such as sister service Stepping Stones, had missed the budget.

A man stands in front of a shrub, he wears a black and orange jacket, looks seriously at the camera.
Mr Wilson says the $3.4million could introduce up to four beds at the Footsteps Rehab Centre. (ABC Riverland: Nadia Isa. )

He said several centers run by the Native Drug and Alcohol Council relied on the same funding models despite an increase in the number of people coming through the doors.

“[They] we have the same budget as in 2013, so there has been no increase in funding,” he said.

Mr Wilson said he agreed with Mr Benbow that the revived City Safe program needed new direction.

“The original approach was to some degree quasi-police in style,” he said.

“So what we’re hoping for is that the local council can call a meeting with different agencies that deal with people who have drug and alcohol problems.”

Other measures taken to make the city safe

Mr. Benbow was a member of the Port Augusta Responsible Communities Committee (PARC), formed in September 2021.

The committee brought together a group of concerned stakeholders, including former Deputy Prime Minister Dan Van Holst Pellekaan and South Australian Police Superintendent Paul Roberts.

Mr. Benbow said he retired from PARC before the last state election.

“Look, there are good people in this group, and I’m sure they’re trying to make changes, but in my opinion, they weren’t doing enough,” he said.

The new government has yet to comment on whether PARC will continue.

Port Augusta is currently subject to liquor restrictions that affect bottle shop sales hours and the amount of liquor that can be purchased per customer.

A sign indicating
Signage regarding temporary alcohol restrictions at bottle shops around Port Augusta.(ABC North and West: Georgia Roberts)

The restrictions were an additional measure put in place to curb anti-social behavior in the city and are set to be reviewed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission on June 22.

Mr Benbow said he was not yet sure whether the restrictions had affected alcohol-related harm.

“I see less activity early in the day,” he said.

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