Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:32): I speak on the motion on the emergency response to the flood event and note:
That this house—
(a) recognises the immense efforts of the South Australian emergency service sector during the emergency response to the 2022-23 River Murray flood event;
(b) acknowledges the State Emergency Service, Country Fire Service, Metropolitan Fire Service, South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission, Volunteer Marine Rescue and Surf Life Saving South Australia for their service to the community; and
(c) shows its appreciation to the staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly to protect and support affected communities.
Certainly, another group we need to speak on today is the South Australian police force, who did so much good work during this event. It got interesting at times, but all our emergency services had to get involved. It was a major event that impacted the full length of the river, whether you were at Renmark or Milang or at the mouth. I salute all of the communities, whether they were registered volunteers or community volunteers, but also the tireless work of all the staff, whether they be earthmoving contractors, earthmoving operators, council staff—everyone who worked tirelessly to get the job done.
There were many thousands of tonnes of clay moved to put the levee banks in place. As I have said in this place recently, you go to Renmark in the member for Chaffey's electorate and you really see how it truly is an island. They built massive levee banks to get it above the 1956 flood level. It was a huge amount of work because the cost of Renmark getting wet feet would have been absolutely huge. It was a massive amount of work.
I remember talking to the council CEO about where he was getting his clay, and he said, 'Wherever we can'. They were putting in a dynamic effort, working with contractors, working with council, and getting on board to get the job done, but in doing that working alongside the SES, the CFS, the MFS and the police to make sure that that work could get done. That work flowed down the river, so to speak. I saw a massive levee bank being built in Cobdogla, saw many vehicles—whether they be trucks or earthmoving equipment—from other areas around the state that put their shoulder to the wheel—council trucks and other contractors who moved in to help out their contractor mates to do the job to protect river communities.
It happened throughout Waikerie, where work was done building a levee bank to save the recreation grounds down by the ferry. Works were done throughout Mannum, as we know, and that helped save Mary Ann Reserve. We had some interesting times with the back flow of stormwater coming in and the rowing club essentially had to be sacrificed because we could not get divers down, because the flow rates were massive, to help plug the stormwater pipes that were working in reverse: instead of running the water out to the river, the river water was running back. It will be a massive effort to support the Mannum Rowing Club to ensure it gets support to refresh and renew, and those discussions are ongoing with the Mid Murray Council.
Certainly with Mypolonga, the Martin family, Ash Martin—I know that Reece McArdle was on the grader when I was there one day—did a great job and shifted probably well north of 8,000 tonnes of clay in building a barrier about 600 metres long to protect the lower part of Mypolonga, including the school grounds. It was intriguing, and I have mentioned here before the work done earlier on when we identified there was a problem with protecting community pumps. It was not the big Central Irrigation Trust pump that pumped the water for SA Water for the town, it was the power infrastructure that was built on the ground, but the pumps were built above the 1956 flood level—it was a real dichotomy.
In a short time, pulling from the same burrow pit that was used in 1974, once we got those fast track clearances—and I have spoken here before of working with the departments: John Schutz from DEW, Con from SA Water, and others—we could make sure we could get the clay in. It is like an island, about 800 metres in from that other levee bank in Mypolonga.
In Murray Bridge, with the DefenCell—and I had a lot of communication with Chris Beattie from the SES to make sure we could get a DefenCell in place to protect not just the rowing club but also the community club in Murray Bridge—I attempted to get it in place to help support the pumps for a farming family that is just under the Swanport Bridge. People would have seen it many times coming across, but it is also where the racing club pumps are, and that got topped up with a volunteer effort with sandbags.
Certainly the kilometres of DefenCell that went in place was a real asset in completing works on Randell Street, the main street of Mannum, as were buttressing works around those big levee builds, which were about 10 metres across at the bottom to give a good solid base. They are a real innovation, and probably close to all of it is gone by now in Mannum—I was there the other day and it was nearly all gone—as recovery starts and there is a lot of work to do with places that went under water. I commend everyone who was involved. The SES had people come in to sandbagging stations from right across the city. I met people on various days who had come from various SES stations up here in the city.
The CFS did great work during this event, assisting communities with sandbag filling and protecting communities, making sure the water got pumped. I have never seen so many different versions of pump trucks in Mannum; there was always water we had to get to the other side of the levee. The MFS were involved as well, doing great work assisting communities.
The SES had their high clearance trucks there, and the Army was there with four trucks throughout the Riverland, two based up in the member for Chaffey's electorate and two based at Murray Bridge. There was also another helicopter that came in and I had the opportunity, with the Minister for Emergency Services, to go up in the SES helicopter with—
Mr PEDERICK: You have to ask; I was a bit cheeky and put in a request to Chris Beattie to see if there was an opportunity, and managed to go up with the minister and the member for Finniss. This was just after the peak, so I got to see the full impact right across the swamps that had let go. Speaking about the swamps, the contractors did what they could north of Murray Bridge, but a lot of those agricultural levees were always going to fall over at the 180 gigalitre a day level.
There was so much work done south of Murray Bridge, and the Jervois community. When the government said it was too dangerous to stay there, I had an interesting conversation with one of my staffer's friends, Jess, a policewoman. She said, 'We don't want to have politics about keeping people on the bank,' because they were going to say to people, 'You have to get off the bank', with the Emergency Management Act. I said, 'Well, we're just building a levee; that's all we're doing'.
To their credit, working with them and Scott Denny, the superintendent, and Chris Beattie and other authorities we got the job done. There were so many other people, individuals and families, who helped each other along those levee banks, putting sandbags in place. In conclusion, I just want to thank our emergency services for everything they have done with this flood event.
I also want to acknowledge that Surf Life Saving has lost their president. With your indulgence, sir, Kevin 'Brakey' Watkins died last week after his battle with a long-term illness. Kevin was an active surf lifesaving member for 55 of his 70 years, after gaining his Bronze Medallion in 1967. He was incredibly passionate about surf lifesaving, so it was only fitting when he became state president of the volunteer organisation. Vale Kevin 'Brakey' Watkins, and thank you to everyone involved in emergency efforts—not just with floods or fires but on our beaches as well.