Port Augusta’s City Safe Program Returns to the Spotlight After State Government Commitment

The South Australian government has put $100,000 on the table to bring the controversial City Safe scheme back to Port Augusta after reports of anti-social behavior rose in the city.

The council ended the program in 2020, saying it could no longer afford the $300,000 needed each year to provide it and arguing it was not a municipal responsibility.

Deputy Premier Dan van Holst Pellekaan pledged that a re-elected Liberal government would commit $100,000 a year over three years to help revive the program.

The offer is based on an equal split of funding between the Port Augusta Council and the state and federal governments.

Known informally to residents as K9, the program featured a team of two security guards, sometimes accompanied by dogs, carrying out patrols.

Alcohol restrictions were announced a month ago in an attempt to limit alcohol consumption and public intoxication in the CBD.

Port Augusta Mayor Brett Benbow called a special meeting of council to discuss the offer Wednesday night after receiving a letter from the Deputy Premier outlining details of the offer and saying he had already made the offer. offer verbally to Cr Benbow.

Brett Benbow says he asked for funds to tackle the town’s problems.(ABC North and West SA: Georgia Roberts)

Cr Benbow said three recommendations came out of the board meeting.

“One was [to acknowledge] that no prior offer had been made to the board, two [that] a response letter be prepared to the Minister regarding the inaccuracies in the original letter, and the third, permission to meet him formally,” he said.

Cr Benbow said he was taken aback by the statement that an offer had been formally made, but he acknowledged a verbal discussion where council, state and federal governments could share the costs of City Safe.

“I have previously pleaded with the government to resolve this issue,” he said.

“We had other offers rejected by the state government for [save City Safe] in the past.”

A sign on a bottle shop counter detailing alcohol restrictions.
Temporary restrictions on alcohol have been put in place in Port Augusta.(ABC North and West SA: Georgia Roberts)

Meetings but no official action

The Port Augusta Responsible Communities Committee (PARC), formed in September 2021, brought together a group of senior police, bureaucrats, community leaders and politicians in an effort to address Port Augusta’s anti-social behavior problem .

The group, which includes the deputy prime minister and the mayor, has met several times since its inception, but no formal action has been taken on the city’s issues.

Wednesday’s special meeting agenda revealed that there was no discussion of funding to replace City Safe at PARC meetings.

The city has several Drug and Alcohol Services and Police and Mobile Assistance Patrol, which work together in the city to reduce problems and support visitors and locals.

The Native Drug and Alcohol Council operates Footsteps, a rehabilitation center, and Stepping Stones, a sobering up center that provides meals and other amenities.

Stepping Stones manager Alinda Hogg said she has seen an increase in alcohol abuse since the loss of City Safe in 2020.

Donna Meyers, project coordinator at Footsteps Rehabilitation Centre, a sister program of Stepping Stones, agrees.

Native people in a drop-in centre, having something to eat.
Stepping Stones Day Center is Footsteps’ sister centre. Staff say both could be the subject of an injection of funding.(ABC North and West SA: Gabriella Marchant)

Services require more support

While reinstating City Safe could help tackle anti-social behavior, existing services in the city would also like to see more funding.

A smiling blonde woman.
Donna Meyers says early intervention programs could also help solve problems.(Provided: Donna Meyers)

Ms Meyers said the amount promised by the Liberals would go a long way.

“We could provide detox services for our center and even employ a full-time detox nurse with $100,000,” she said.

“That could go into follow-up where we could rent houses for clients coming into the world after our rehab services.”

Ms Meyers said the causes of antisocial behavior can be quite complex and early intervention is something the state government can also focus on.

“If you had that kind of money, you could spend it on delivering programs like domestic violence programs or family support programs,” she said.

“Behaviour does not start from scratch.

Ryan H. Bowman