Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 29, 2022


Riverland Flood Response

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO (14:59): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development regarding the regional Riverland community.

Leave granted.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: Flooding in the Riverland is another significant hit for grapegrowers and winemakers who have already been experiencing significant stress as a result of oversupply of grapes, loss of key markets and higher import costs. The weather is also producing more disease than normal. Does the state government's financial assistance package include support for the Riverland grapegrowers and wine producers to help them meet the immediate challenges faced by the flood, such as damage to agriculture and property, and ensure the longevity of this important industry?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:00): I thank the honourable member for her question and, indeed, her interest in the very difficult situation facing so much of our community in the Riverland. I do also want to just take the opportunity to commend those who have worked very productively and constructively with the government on this. That includes organisations such as the State Emergency Service and other emergency service providers, local councils and community groups, and also many in this place. I think it's important that we do acknowledge when we do work constructively together. That might contrast a little with some of our federal MPs from this state, but that's perhaps separate to this.

Last week, when the entire Malinauskas Labor cabinet was in the Riverland to meet with local councils and also people and stakeholders within their own portfolio areas, we were very pleased to be joined by the member for Chaffey, Mr Tim Whetstone, so that we could all work constructively with what the challenges are in the Riverland and how they can best be overcome.

I think it's also been very helpful and useful that, where there have been things that perhaps haven't been picked up immediately, they have been then shared with government or with other agencies so that a solution can be worked through, because I am very confident in saying that the main concern of everyone here is going to be ensuring that the impacts of the flood events are minimised as far as they can be and then, after the events, that recovery is as swift as possible.

I am advised that the current forecast is a high probability for a flow of 175 gigalitres a day at the Victorian-South Australian border for the first week in December, and a second peak is now predicted with high probability of reaching at least 185 gigalitres a day, arriving in late December. I am advised there is a moderate chance of reaching 200 gigalitres a day, and the final peak flow will of course be subject to additional rain and water releases upstream.

It's likely that this will be the highest flow to come across the South Australian border since the run of high flows experienced in the early to mid 1970s, which in 1974 peaked at 182 gigalitres a day. I am advised that PIRSA has undertaken modelling for various predicted high-level flows, including up to 250 gigalitres a day, to determine impacts on primary production along the river. At 200 gigalitres a day, the most affected primary production areas would be pastures, grapevines, vegetables, fruit and nut trees.

On 22 November, the Premier announced a $51 million support package. That included, specifically for primary producers and irrigators, $3 million to meet the costs of relocating or re-establishing pumping and generator infrastructure for irrigators impacted by the floods. Producers can register their interest through the PIRSA website and then they will be contacted going forward.

In terms of the specific question that the honourable member has raised, we are looking constantly at what is needed for primary producers of various sorts in the Riverland. We have had very productive meetings and communications with all of the various industry bodies and associations and industry leaders, including, in fact, last week my department, PIRSA, which had a forum that involved 40 industry leaders and associations to provide regular updates, the opportunity for which will be happening weekly. That I think was of particular interest and hopefully assisted in the confidence of the primary producers who were involved in terms of what is occurring because, of course, being kept informed is absolutely key.

The Premier, when he made the announcement of the package, indicated that this was the first tranche of assistance. As we continue our discussions and consultation with industry, we will potentially then have further assistance to announce.