Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (15:28): I am going to read today an edited letter from a constituent of mine, Daniel Martin from Wall Flat on the River Murray, outlining the troubles farmers and irrigators are having with flood recovery many months after the event, as follows:
I am writing to you on behalf of the Wall Flat Private Irrigation District Trust to express our frustration and disappointment at the South Australian Government's handling of the flood emergency in the Lower Murray Irrigation District, the mishandling and subsequent delay of recovery efforts, and the ongoing delay in making decisions with regard to funding.
The farmers and landowners at Wall Flat have been in constant communication with various Government Departments, including DEW and PIRSA, prior to and following the Wall Flat levee failure on 2 January 2023.
We communicated that Wall Flat would be ready for dewatering at the end of February as we knew the depth of our breaks and the anticipated fall of river levels from upstream. We protected and conveyed that dewatering would take approximately 4-6 weeks and needed to be completed by early April 2023, in time for the crucial re-seeding of pastures before the winter months. Despite clearly communicating this timeline and the critical importance of it, we were extremely disappointed to be told in late February that pumps were 'still being sourced'.
This was unacceptable and left us with no choice but to investigate pump availability ourselves, which we did with a simple phone call to Coates Hire.
Who would have thought? The letter continues:
Thanks only to our proactive actions in locating available pumps, re-seeding commenced on 20 April 2023 and continued through until late May, only just within the crucial timeline outlined at the abovementioned January meeting. It is evident that if we had waited for the Government our window of opportunity to seed for optimum winter growth would have passed due to unnecessary inaction and delay, further impacting the recovery of our livelihoods.
We have, on numerous occasions, communicated to various Government representatives our concern about the method of repair and the repair materials proposed being the same materials used to sure up the levee prior to the flood reaching us in January which washed away completely on contact with the rising water.
The fact that the decision makers in Government proceeded to direct the use of these materials to repair the seven breaks at Wall Flat without sufficient protection at the river face, and that they are still unable to provide any guidance on how the full repairs will be completed, adds to our utter frustration with this entire process and again proves that local knowledge continues to be ignored by those making decisions in Government.
Whilst the permanent levee repairs are still high on our priority list, our primary focus has now shifted to the desilting of our infrastructure so that we can irrigate through the impending summer months.
When the Government owned levee failed, the misplaced sediment material washed into our channels and paddocks and settled there. We have, at our own cost, had to move some sediment to enable basic irrigation, however a significant amount of work is still required to clear our channels and is likely to cost thousands of dollars.
As this sediment is from Government infrastructure impacting our infrastructure, we do not believe this cost should be borne by us, however we have been informed that desilting is not considered part of the rehabilitation of the levee and so funding is not being provided at this time.
Another funding issue arises because the infrastructure is owned by the Trust so we have been unable to apply for any of the funding grants currently available. These are yet more failures of process which are impacting our recovery. It is imperative that the Government releases more funding for projects such as this, and makes funding available to Trusts, so that farmers and landowners impacted can adequately recover from this failure of Government owned infrastructure.
To further delay a funding decision or ignore this part of the ongoing recovery of the region is unacceptable and irresponsible. The above is only a very small sample of the frustrating decisions imposed on us over the course of the last 9 months.
That is from Daniel Martin, an irrigator at Wall Flat. It is a very eloquent exposé of what has not happened in the last nine months and the very reason there needs to be immediate funding so that people can desilt the area, desilt those channels, make sure they have access to water out of the river and then be able to get rid of it out of the channels once they have irrigated their blocks. This is absolutely vital as the summer heat hits us.