Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (15:04): My question is to the Minister for Environment and Water. Did the minister receive advice from her department in relation to levee breaches and, if so, when? With your leave, sir, and that of the house, I will explain.
Mr PEDERICK: The Deputy Premier is quoted in the Murray Bridge News on 8 September dismissing reports that there had been multiple River Murray levee breaches late last week as Liberal misinformation, despite ABC news reporting today that there were, in fact, seven levees breached in the region.
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Deputy Premier, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Minister for Defence and Space Industries, Minister for Climate, Environment and Water) (15:05): I think what we are talking about is a lack of understanding of the difference between overtopping—
Mr Pederick interjecting:
The SPEAKER: Member for Hammond, order!
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: You and I had a text message that day, so you know I knew. So, a difference between overtopping and breaching, overtopping—
Mr Pederick interjecting:
The SPEAKER: Order, member for Hammond!
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: So this is a definitional question. It is a definitional question and it matters.
The SPEAKER: Deputy Premier, please be seated. Member for Hammond, you will leave under 137A, continuous interjections, for the remainder of question time.
The honourable member for Hammond having withdrawn from the chamber:
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: This definitional difference matters because it matters what happens to a levee and therefore what needs to occur to repair it for the future and also to manage it into the future. Overtopping is when the water level goes over the top of a levee that is otherwise intact. That happened for six of the seven events, six of the seven levees, which is why I indicated in the media that it was misinformation to say that there had been multiple breaches of levees.
One levee, privately owned, did breach after it had overtopped. That one is the one that is still unable to be repaired because not only is the overtopping the issue but, if it is breached, it is very difficult to then repair it. In order to keep the normal level of the water out, you have to repair that first and then allow for the dewatering through pumping, whereas the others, although somewhat damaged in the overtopping, did not breach and therefore are well on their way to being dewatered and being able to be used again. That is the distinction.
No-one hides from the fact that there was a wind event at the same time as a high-flow event and that seiche caused the water to go over the top and into agricultural land. That is deeply distressing for the landholders there and a matter of great concern to the government. No-one diminishes that; no-one suggests that that's unimportant. What is equally important is that we are not alarmists, that we don't suggest that there have been multiple failures of levees, that there have been multiple breaches of levees, because that means something quite different and is far more expensive and takes far longer to repair.