Legislative Council: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Ag Town of the Year

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:17): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Can the minister tell the chamber about the recent community event held in Wudinna to mark the town's award as the Ag Town of the Year for 2023?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:17): It was a real privilege and pleasure to head over to Wudinna a couple of weeks ago to mark that town's achievement as the 2023 Ag Town of the Year. This is a very important award for regional South Australia. The award highlights the vital role that agriculture plays in the regional landscape, recognising towns that are supporting advanced agricultural practices, thriving primary industries and regional development. The Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) is the award's major sponsor, which is also strongly supported by Solstice Media, publishers of InDaily.

There is no doubt that Wudinna is a resilient town, filled with people with a can-do attitude, brimming with community pride. For a town of just 548 people, the community turned out in good numbers for the event to mark the town's achievement. There were, perhaps, 200—that was one of the estimates—at the local Apex Park on the Wednesday night leading up to the Easter long weekend. Displaying their community spirit, the local football club prepared a delicious gourmet barbecue, as well as refreshments to mark the occasion.

It is clear that dry land farming is at the heart of the town's economy and community. It is apparent within the town through its huge 70-tonne sculpture, The Australian Farmer statue, embellished with grain crops and sheep, symbolising the lifeblood of the region. Agriculture employs 43.8 per cent of the town's workforce and makes up 73.5 per cent of the town's exports and Wudinna is the hub for the Eyre Peninsula's grain, cattle and sheep industries. Major agribusinesses, farming machinery, and earthmoving suppliers are based in the town, which is also home to the farmer-owned research, development and extension organisation AIR EP, and Eyre Peninsula Cooperative Bulk Handling, which supports grain storage, handling and supply chain logistics.

One of the things that is so remarkable and impressive about Wudinna is how integrated its industries are with the broader community. At the community event, I was joined by the chair of Primary Producers SA, Simon Maddocks, a member of the award's judging panel, who reinforced how impressed the judges were by that integration of agriculture into the local area school's curriculum. Each year level, from reception through to year 12, delves into aspects of plant and animal production.

The next morning I, too, was given an extensive tour of the school's facilities and saw firsthand how engaged the students were with agriculture and how this interest brought other elements of learning to life. I heard, for example, how students are not just taught about the practical elements of cropping and livestock management, they are also thinking ahead to how ongoing technological advancements in areas such as drone and sensor technologies can improve dryland farming practices into the future. This generates enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects among both girls and boys. It also augments the resourcing of the school, as local industries and parents of the students volunteer their time and often their equipment to facilitate this learning.

This can-do attitude extends to the local council as well. As part of my trip I was accompanied by Mayor Eleanor Scholz to view and climb the Pildappa Rock formation, with its impressive wave formations which rival and possibly surpass those that feature at Western Australia's famous Wave Rock. The Wudinna District Council is in the process of developing this site as a major tourist attraction, with amenities provided and situated in a manner that preserves the natural beauty of Pildappa Rock.

As part of the prize, Wudinna has received town signage noting their achievement as the Agricultural Town of the Year for 2023, as well as promotion through SALIFE and InDaily. Once again, I would like to thank all of the 49 regional towns who nominated for the award last year. I thank the judges and all involved in the program, and particularly recognise the efforts of the three finalist towns. Well done.