Legislative Council: Thursday, December 01, 2022


River Murray Flood

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (14:43): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries a question about power problems caused by impending floods along the Murray River.

Leave granted.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: In the past week, SA Power Networks has indicated that rising levels of the Murray through the Riverland could force them to shut off power to pumping stations to irrigators for safety reasons. If this occurs, it could cause enormous problems for growers trying to keep their crops alive in the event of a hot summer. One almond grower says that it could impact on hundreds of thousands of his trees.

As we know, the Riverland is one of our most important sources of produce. My questions to the minister, hopefully answered without a jolly ditty, are:

1. Has she had discussions with the SA Power Networks about their intentions and have they come up with any solutions to avoid catastrophic losses for producers?

2. Does the government have any measures, including financial assistance, that it can put in place to support those irrigators under threat?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:44): I thank the honourable member for his very important question. It is certainly something that I think has been on all our minds. To answer the first part of the question, yes, I have had discussions with SA Power Networks. The entire cabinet, except for one who I think was sick, was in the Riverland last week. At various times during the day, I was with SAPN and also the Minister for Energy and Mining, the member for West Torrens in the other place.

There are a number of things that have been put in place. The first was the announcement of grants that would be available for those who have to relocate infrastructure or generation equipment. I do also have some information from the minister in the other place. Whilst normally I would take it on notice to bring something back to give that kind of detail, since it is the last sitting day of parliament this year and it is an urgent matter, I will, with the indulgence of the President, read from some of that information:

A new 50-metre exclusion zone around electricity powerlines standing in River Murray floodwaters has been imposed from today to help keep communities safe and avoid unnecessary disconnections.

The 50-metre exclusion will help minimise the potential for disconnection of power supply for Riverland communities as well as keeping people safe from electrocution and electric shock.

SA Power Networks has advised there are thousands of power poles across the Riverland flood plains, with many already standing in or submerged by flood waters. People are warned to keep well clear of the powerlines for their own and others' safety.

As I am sure we would all agree, safety has to be the number one concern. It continues:

Flood modelling shows that at the 160GL flood level around 3000 poles will be standing in water and a further 1000 if levels reach 200GL.

In general, it is highly recommended that all vessels stay away from the flood plain areas where possible. Should entry to the area be required, vessel operators must observe the 50-metre exclusion zone around powerlines and infrastructure.

Failure to adhere to this direction could result in prosecution and significant fines.

People should always assume powerlines are live and potentially lethal, and the risk is heightened with the presence of water. Avoiding the area [where possible] is the safest course of action.

I did also meet last week with the almond growers' association to discuss some of these matters. I am pleased to say that so far the feedback we have had in regard to the grants program has been very positive.