Legislative Council: Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Horticultural Netting Infrastructure Program

The Hon. I. PNEVMATIKOS (14:44): Thank you. My final question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister inform the council about the recent expansion of the Horticultural Netting Infrastructure Program?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:44): I thank the honourable member for her question. Members might be aware that previously the South Australian government secured funding from the commonwealth government for the South Australian horticulture infrastructure program, which provided $14.6 million in grants for horticultural producers. This was in response to repeated severe hail events experienced in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

When the funding was announced it was specifically for producers situated in the Adelaide Hills and the Riverland growing region. The program provides funding to producers for the purchase and installation of new netting or replacement of damaged netting over land used to grow horticultural crops.

I am pleased to update the council that I have now approved the change in scope for the Horticultural Netting Infrastructure Program to list the whole state as eligible areas. This means that producers in areas such as the Northern Adelaide Plains or the Limestone Coast will now be eligible to apply for this grant, which will give primary producers the potential to capitalise on the opportunity to protect their crops from adverse weather events in the future.

The grants available under the program provide for up to 50 per cent of cost to purchase and install permanent netting and throwover netting, with grants being capped at $300,000 per business. We know that increasing protective cropping within South Australia will not only assist producers to mitigate climate challenges but will also result in productivity gains and increased marketability of products.

Netting is an effective and sustainable method of protecting fruit orchards against hail and bird damage, with the benefits extending to improved yields, pack outs and labour and water savings. I understand my department has recently received interest in the grant from a company that was just a few short kilometres out of the previous boundaries, which has previously been affected by hail. As a result of this change, they will now be able to invest in this infrastructure, and I encourage any other company in other regions to do the same.

The program is due to end on 30 June 2025. All applications must be received by June 2024, and all funding needs to be spent by that date of June 2025. As of 30 June this year, the program in the Adelaide Hills and Riverland has seen a total of 127 grants being approved totalling $10.2 million, with a total project cost worth over $22 million; 110 projects have been completed; 774 hectares of crop have been covered through the approved grants; 455 hectares covered by permanent netting structures; and 319 hectares covered by throwover netting. The average grant to date is just over $80,000.

It is clear there has been a strong take-up from industry in the Adelaide Hills and Riverland and they are, of course, still eligible to apply under this expanded framework. I look forward to continuing to see strong uptake across South Australia as a result of these changes.