Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Question Time

Riverland Wine Industry Blueprint

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:44): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Primary Industries on the topic of the Riverland Wine Industry Blueprint and its future.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: On Tuesday last week, Riverland Wine launched its Riverland Wine Industry Blueprint, which has a number of priorities and is a document that is key to the Riverland wine industry's recovery from current challenges. Priority one talks about a rapid transition to more sustainable production and about the importance of maintaining and securing productive land, irrigation assets and irrigation water entitlements in the region, while the sector adjusts to more sustainable levels. My questions to the minister are:

1. How is the Minister for Primary Industries going to ensure that irrigation assets and irrigation water entitlements are maintained and secured in the region, given that her government is pushing for the sale of water entitlements—namely, buybacks—from the Southern Basin?

2. Has the minister or her department done any modelling as to how many horticultural properties and producers will be affected by her government's buyback policy?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:45): I thank the honourable member for her question. It certainly was excellent to be able to be in the Riverland last week to be part of the launch of the Riverland Wine Industry Blueprint. We had representatives from industry, government and Riverland grapegrowers and winemakers to launch the blueprint. Riverland Wine, the peak industry association, was representing of course grapegrowers and winemakers. We have worked closely with Riverland Wine—we being the government—to lead this important strategic work.

The Riverland region is one of the most important agricultural regions in Australia, and more than 30 per cent of Australia's wine grapes are grown in the region, which makes it Australia's largest wine production region by tonnage. Of course, the last few years have had many challenges while we continue to fight fruit fly outbreaks in certain districts. The region has also faced challenges from the River Murray flooding event last summer and a significant drop in demand for red wine grapes due to global oversupply and trade tensions.

The state government has been pleased to support the delivery of this blueprint, and it is one of the many initiatives in place to support the wine industry during this challenging time and to ensure that the wine industry remains a strong and vibrant contributor to regional communities. Some of those measures include:

ramping up resources for rural business support and family and business support mentor programs;

development of a guide of support services available to growers and wine producers in South Australia, which is available on the PIRSA website;

extension of the Future Drought Fund farm resilience program to South Australian wine grapegrowers;

trialling novel methods for resting vines as a measure to manage production, including the application of Ethephon, a plant growth regulator. Growers can apply for a rebate for the cost of Ethephon, which can save them up to $2,000 per hectare in input, water and management costs in their red wine grape vineyards.

To ensure that the regional wine industry can maintain the momentum of the great work that has already occurred in bringing together this strategic plan, the South Australian government has committed a further $200,000 over the next two years to support delivery of the blueprint. This funding will ensure that important resources can be dedicated within the region and deliver on the promise of the Riverland Wine Industry Blueprint.

An implementation plan will be developed with key government, industry, business and regional stakeholders to deliver this important work so that the Riverland can continue to produce quality wine grapes, as well as wine and tourism experiences, which are an important feature of the South Australian wine sector.