Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 08, 2023


Matters of Interest

River Murray Flood

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (15:23): I rise today to speak about the recent flooding events and the resilience of my community and other communities along the River Murray.

The River Murray is a mighty beast. It is Australia's longest river, measuring 2,508 kilometres in length. Its tributaries include five of the next six longest rivers of Australia: the Murrumbidgee, Darling, Lachlan, Warrego and Paroo rivers. Together with that of the Murray the catchments of these rivers form the Murray-Darling Basin, which covers about one-seventh the area of Australia and is widely considered Australia's most important irrigated region.

Over the Christmas and New Year period, the Riverland and the Murraylands experienced the largest flood seen since the 1956 flood. The impacts to local businesses, farmers and residents are varying, and for many will be long lasting. In the short-term it has meant loss of trade, higher input costs, dislocations and damage to infrastructure. In the medium to long-term many of these disruptions are likely to continue as waters recede and the recovery efforts begin.

One thing is for sure: our regional communities are resilient, always have been and always will be. We are like family. We look after each other and help one another when the chips are down, and then we get back up together, stronger and with a renewed sense of purpose, because that is how our regions survive. We cannot do it without each other and it is driven by community leaders and by volunteers.

I want to sincerely thank the SES workers and volunteers for their hard work and dedication to keeping our river communities safe. The selflessness of these individuals to put the regions' interests at heart, before their own, must be commended. Day after day they were there when we needed them most, and we will be eternally grateful.

I also take this opportunity to thank the mayors, councillors, CEOs, local government staff and state government agencies for their tremendous efforts during this time. For many of the mayors elected at the recent local government elections, this was a difficult and challenging introduction to the job. However, they should all hold their heads high, be proud of their achievements and be congratulated for the roles they all played to protect townships, lives and livelihoods.

I personally thank Mayor Winnall, Mayor Hunter and Mayor Norton from the Berri Barmera, Renmark Paringa and Loxton Waikerie councils and their respective CEOs—Dylan Shaw, Tony Siviour and David Beaton—from the Riverland for their leadership during this time. I also thank Mid Murray Mayor Simone Bailey and CEO Ben Scales, as well as Murray Bridge Mayor Wayne Thorley and CEO Michael Sedgman for their leadership in the Murraylands.

We welcomed the state government's flood disaster package, but from the outset stressed the importance of accessibility for these communities, and I make no apologies for this. It is easy to announce a million dollar package that makes North Terrace feel warm and fuzzy, but if those grants cannot be accessed by locals in a timely manner then in my view it fails. River communities cannot afford to fall through the cracks. Time and again our regions punch well above their weight when it comes to economic contribution and support to this state.

Occasionally, there are times when our regions require support in return—a hand up, not a hand out—and we must be there for them. The recent period has also highlighted the importance of coordination between community, local government and state and federal agencies, having a plan and being prepared. Communication is the key and local knowledge is priceless. It is important that we learn from our experiences, that we celebrate our successes and look towards the future.

River communities are some of our best regions for tourism: we have great food, great wine and premium accommodation. It is critical that this is promoted and supported by this government and by this state as these communities recover from this event. We need to get behind our river communities to ensure that they not only survive but flourish and thrive going forward.