Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (15:02): I rise today to talk about the management of the River Murray pre the recent flood, especially levee management or levee mismanagement, as the case may be. In regard to pre flood, I want absolutely to salute local governments, contractors and volunteers for the work they did in protecting their communities, whether it was at Renmark, where at least 150,000 tonnes of clay was moved, or as you come down the river there was much work done at areas like Cobdogla and Waikerie.
There were multiple earthmoving units from right around the area and further afield like Mount Remarkable and elsewhere, all coming together for the cause to keep those River Murray waters away from communities and away from farmland. Getting down further into my region in the seat of Hammond, levees were built in Mannum.
Levees were topped up along the River Murray. Contractors, volunteers and farmers did what they could to protect their land. One farmer spent north of $1 million on his own. There was some excellent work done at Mypolonga, where I worked with the heads of departments to make sure we got that 700-metre levee put in place to protect Mypolonga Primary School and the lower reaches of the town.
As things moved on, and we have moved on from the emergency management time, the problem is that things have slowed down dramatically in making sure that the 110 kilometres of levee banks along the River Murray are up to speed. It is a real shame that we have not had the sense of urgency we had during the major flood event to make sure that we could protect communities and protect their land. Farmers have had it tough. They have seen their land flooded, they have re-sown and recently we have seen breaches again.
The minister says that overtopping is not a breach. Well, I reckon if you build a levee and the water is supposed to be on one side of the levee and then it lands on the other side that is a breach. We had seven levees breach the other day. A farmer at Pompoota got hold of the department on 30 August and asked, 'What are you doing about Pompoota? What are you doing about making sure that levee doesn't go because we are frightened it's going to go?' They did not get an answer until a week later. The next night, the Thursday night of the seventh, and on the morning of Friday 8 September, that levee let go. This is on newly sown pastures, and it is not good enough.
The minister keeps using the comment, 'We will see how much money we've got in the future to stabilise these levee banks,' and talks about the $3.22 million they have spent so far. Over $4 million has been spent in Mannum alone putting levees in and pulling levees out, so $3.22 million is minuscule for what will be needed in the future. It will need at least $30 million in works to not only stabilise these levee banks but get them up to speed so the Lower Murray farmers and those communities can farm in some confidence.
Instead of having a hapless minister missing in action, as she was during four weeks of the peak flood event, when she was too busy touring the Thames in London, she should have been here attending to the River Murray, and it just shows her lack of credibility in managing this flood event. It is an absolute disgrace. Anyone else would have been blown away in the media, but for some reason the minister was not.
It is an absolute disgrace that people have to put up with this. The river was only running at 10 centimetres above pool level and, yes, it did rise 400 or 500 millimetres due to a wind effect. In my mind, those levees should have been up to speed and those low points should have been filled in so that they did not breach and overtop. It is just outrageous that the work has not gone in and that the government just keeps putting off that long-term work to protect our farmers into the future.
They need to get on the ball and they need to make sure that clay is moved—not like they are doing at Pompoota at the minute, having an hour and a half turnaround on clay from Brinkley when local clays are available that were obviously used in the emergency situation the other day. So listen to the local farmers, use the local clay and use those local black clays to seal the top of the levees.