Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (16:40): I rise today to talk about the River Murray flood, both in the Riverland and in the Murraylands. I speak not just as the member for Hammond but as the shadow emergency services minister. I want to commend the resilience of communities during this once-in-a-lifetime event for many people. We have not seen an event like this—and it was a bigger event, obviously—since 1956. Preparations went into place—whether it was up at Renmark, whether it was at Berri Barmera Council, whether it was at Loxton Waikerie, whether it was at Mid Murray or whether it was at the Rural City of Murray Bridge—and thousands of tonnes of earth got moved to protect communities.
I look at Renmark, which is essentially an island. It was exemplified during the flood process how much of an island it is to get those levees built to the 1956 flood level. We witnessed major works being put in place in Cobdogla. It was a tough decision to close off Nappers Bridge at Lake Bonney in the Berri-Barmera region to protect areas of the town right next to Lake Bonney.
There was amazing work that a small council like Mid Murray had to take on, and I really commend Mayor Simone Bailey and the chief executive officer, Ben Scales, for some extraordinary work in making sure that levees got put in place, not just right up against the river but also with the DefenCell network, which proved to be such a game changer as something that could be put in and now is being lifted out progressively down Randell Street in Mannum to get some sort of normality back into life.
There were some interesting decisions made. Originally at Murray Bridge there was a decision by the council to only protect the rowing club, and I thought, 'Well, hang on, the community club is right next door. Perhaps we need to do that.' Good on Chris Beattie; I sent him a text and we got some DefenCell put around that as well, right on Sturt Reserve. I have been interested in the fact that the decision was made not to try to save Sturt Reserve—it was made by others and not myself—when I saw so much earth moved in other areas.
To all the volunteers, to the council workers and to the contractors that just upped their jobs from everywhere else and got into gear and built these structures: it was an amazing piece of work. I want to reflect on Mypolonga where a local, Ash Martin, talked to Richard Reedy, who then got onto me and said, 'I think we need a levee built at Mypolonga.' It ended up that we got a levee built at Mypolonga; it was 600 metres long. We managed to get a pit activator that was last activated in 1974.
I must commend John Schutz, the head of the environment department and SA Water. I talked to Con from SA Water about making sure that we could get Crown land sorted out within two days—how we could get access and native title sorted out. We also had an emergency exemption: I remember communicating with Minister Koutsantonis about getting a fast-tracked exemption from mining access to another lease area.
Certainly, there were a lot of levees that were going to go under. The water peaked at Overland Corner, where a very accurate measurement was taken of about 206 gigalitres a day, which is well above the 180 gigalitres that most of the levees built north of Murray Bridge were at.
There was so much work done by communities south of Murray Bridge, whether it was with the Riverglades community or the Jervois community—and what a battle! When the government did give up for safety reasons, I worked with the farmers down there. I must acknowledge especially Dino Gazzola, Rodger Zarantonello and Clem Mason in making sure that we got those contractors on the banks working, even though we did have some interaction with the police, who were going to exercise the Emergency Management Act. They managed to keep the guys on the banks building those levees.
I will have a lot more to say about this in time to come. We have recently had a levee go south of Wellington, right up against the lake. I just want to commend everyone involved—the SES, the CFS, the MFS, the fast water rescue guys and the Army. Everyone's mettle has been tested to the end. There is a long way to go with the recovery process. I think it will last probably nearly as long as the drought that went for four years around 15 years ago. Who would have thought we would be facing this today, when we had people like Tim Flannery telling us 15 years ago that it would not rain again?