Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Lower River Murray Levees

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:51): My questions are to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development regarding levee management. What is the minister and her department doing to assist Lower River Murray irrigators with adequate levee management for the full 110-kilometre stretch to provide them with certainty in sowing fodder crops into the future, and what funding is required to improve the levee system in the Lower Murray?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:51): I thank the honourable member for her question. It, of course, refers indirectly to both the major flooding event that happened 10 to 12 months ago, as well as the overtopping event that happened on 7 September. PIRSA is continuing to work closely with the Department for Environment and Water and landholders and contractors to assess and stabilise the levees as soon as possible and maintain or reactivate pumping to minimise the period of additional inundation.

In terms of the project overall for the Lower Murray, there has been a staged program that has been implemented by the Department for Environment and Water to repair levees to allow the dewatering to occur. The stages include immediate stabilisation works to disconnect irrigation areas from the river, followed by intermediate works to reinforce the stabilised areas.

I am advised all levees requiring stabilisation are now complete and the intermediate works are underway. Once the intermediate works are complete and the areas have dried out, a full condition assessment will be undertaken, according to my advice, to determine longer-term requirements.

PIRSA, in partnership with the South Australia Dairyfarmers' Association, is coordinating a program to undertake dewatering of inundated agricultural land in the Lower Murray region to return irrigated areas to production as soon as possible. Members may remember that 20 of the 27 irrigation areas supporting production agriculture had been inundated by the flood and required assistance to dewater and recover. A total area of inundated land was 2,363 hectares and it is estimated that more than 40 gigalitres of water needed to be removed.

The program is covering the cost of levee assessment and stabilisation and pump costs for dewatering and applies equally to government or privately owned levees and all landholders with property in an irrigation area. As at 24 November, which is my most recent advice, 19 areas have completed dewatering, and the final area is scheduled to be completed at the end of November, and that was a result of the overtopping incident that I referred to on 7 September.

The LMRIA recovery subcommittee, convened by PIRSA, was to ensure the flood recovery priorities for primary producers are appropriately represented and has majority community membership. It provides a formal connection to the state recovery arrangements and ensures effective two-way communication between community and government during the delivery of the levee stabilisation and dewatering program and to support the identification of longer-term recovery needs. I am advised that the subcommittee has met six times since its formation in April of this year.

Also, an electronic newsletter to landholders and stakeholders is distributed fortnightly to provide regular updates on levee stabilisation and dewatering activities. That information is also available on the PIRSA website, with additional information on levees available on the DEW website. If I recall correctly, that regular newsletter came about as a result of one of the meetings I had with local community members who said that the information needed to be getting out more broadly, and so that feedback was taken on board and has resulted in that newsletter. That work continues and I am sure we are all keen to see production resumed as soon as possible.