Legislative Council: Tuesday, August 29, 2023


Lower Murray Reclaimed Irrigation Areas

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:31): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Can the minister inform the chamber about the recent women of the Lower Murray Reclaimed Irrigation Area gathering in Murray Bridge and why it is important?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:32): I thank the honourable member for his question. The Murray River flood events have shown the resilience of many who have been directly and indirectly impacted, and highlighted the typically Australian and South Australian response of rolling up the sleeves and helping one another. Sometimes it feels like that's a cliché but often it's actually very accurate about the way people have reacted in times of such difficulties. There are too many examples of this to mention and I am sure we are all grateful for each and every one of them.

Farmers along the Lower Murray Reclaimed Irrigation Areas have been particularly hard hit, not only preparing for the water as they watched it slowly rise and then dealing with the water at its peak but also as it receded and large volumes of water remained on their land, needing to be pumped off.

With PIRSA, SADA and DEW working together, dewatering has continued at a steady rate, with most of the work now completed and a few remaining areas underway. Although it is complex for a range of factors, including the need to ensure levees were stabilised to allow dewatering to occur, it is encouraging that dewatering is nearing completion.

On a number of occasions when I was on the ground before, during and after the floods, I met with Long Flat producers Alex Westlake and Jo Pfeiffer at Jo's Long Flat property near Murray Bridge. Each of these visits gave me additional insight into the issues they were facing on their respective properties and any general issues that they encountered with the response to the floods. Each meeting was productive and informative, and the view from Jo's verandah over the flood plains was a stark reminder of the enormity of the situation.

In the past few months, I have also been very pleased to hear from Alex, who highlighted once again the impact of the floods on farming families, in particular women who carry many of the responsibilities in difficult times on the farm. Alex wrote to me about a project for which she was seeking support, women of the LMRIA, to facilitate gatherings for women in the LMRIA to get together and share experiences, to learn from one another and to hear from guest speakers who could provide insight into natural disaster, trauma, wellbeing and resilience. I was very pleased that Alex's project was able to be supported through PIRSA, and I understand that assistance was also given through other agencies and organisations.

The first gathering of women of the LMRIA took place in early August in Murray Bridge. Unfortunately, I was overseas at the time so I couldn’t attend, but I was very pleased to hear of the success of the event, with a number of women in attendance hearing from Yorke Peninsula farmers Bec Smith and Kate Martin about their experiences after the terrible Yorketown fires a few short years ago, and also having the opportunity to support and network in a relaxing environment over coffee and cake in the fantastic 1924 steakhouse on the riverfront at Sturt Reserve.

It is incredibly important for communities to stay connected, particularly in the face of shared challenges. Women of the LMRIA is a great step forward for women in the area to seek the support of others who know what they are going through. I congratulate Alex and Jo and all of those in attendance at the first event, including PIRSA, DPC, RBS staff and other support agencies and networks. I really look forward to hopefully being able to attend the next event, which I hope will be in the near future.