Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 08, 2023


Question Time

River Murray Flood

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:22): I seek leave to provide a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development a question regarding flooding on farmland.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: According to the Stock Journal last week, farmers left inundated by River Murray flooding after government levees breached are feeling, and I quote:

…unsupported by [the] government and the "silence is deafening" as they face significant financial and emotional turmoil in the months and years ahead.

Much of the families' frustration stems from no fortifications happening on the government-owned Long Flat levee prior to the breach and a total lack of communication since. They are calling for a commitment from the government that these levees will be repaired and flood plains pumped out to return land to agricultural use. My question to the minister is: as Minister for Primary Industries, will she commit to these farmers that those levees will be repaired and flood plains pumped out in a timely manner?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:23): I thank the honourable member for her question. Progressively, as it is safe to do so, state government officers are attending different farming properties to assess the levees and to discuss the next steps with stakeholders. There has been a large amount of community engagement to date.

Many engagements have occurred with Irrigation Trust members, agricultural industry groups and individual producers. The effort will be expanded with Alex Zimmermann, the state's recovery coordinator, along with senior officials from both the Department for Environment and Water and the Department of Primary Industries and Regions, and they are continuing to visit and speak with producers from impacted farms or sector groups and that will continue in the coming weeks. That engagement is really to ensure that impacted farms and farmers do have a ready contact within the state government. PIRSA will continue to lead on industry engagement and planning.

I am advised that government-owned levees in the Lower Murray were primarily the ones built to reclaim land for agricultural production at normal river conditions and were not designed to provide protection from major flooding—so it's an important differentiation when people are talking about levees.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I think the Leader of the Opposition might like to look at what an agricultural levee is compared to a flood levee. In the lead-up to the 2022 River Murray flood peak, the Department for Environment and Water inspected all the government-owned levees and identified any remedial works required to ensure that they meet their intended design specification. Overtopping was anticipated and most privately owned agricultural levees, I am advised, were also overtopped in this flood event.

Once the water recedes and the extent of the flood damage is known, the state government will work with primary producers, including SA Dairyfarmers' Association and Livestock SA, to establish the best way to support affected farmers into the future. Of course, in the meantime, both the state and federal governments have announced a range of grants and other support for flood-affected primary producers, which can be accessed by calling 1800 931 314.