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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3069


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (17:37): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) widespread flooding has devastated large food growing areas in the Adelaide plains;

(b) the Adelaide plains are a major economic driver for South Australia, producing hundreds of millions of dollars of fruit and vegetables each year;

(c) the collective losses sustained by growers have run into tens of millions of dollars; and

(d) many of the producers affected by the floods are family enterprises with limited financial capacity to withstand the losses and damage; and

(2) calls on the Government to report back to the House on what assistance measures will be provided to growers seriously affected by the floods.

Last month, food growers in Adelaide's northern plains sustained tens of millions of dollars of losses as a result of flooding after days of consistently heavy rains. The Northern Adelaide Plains are where most of South Australia's vegetable growing industry is located—in the electorate of my friend the member for Wakefield. Each year, some $600 million or thereabouts of vegetables are grown by the families who run the many enterprises there. The number of direct and indirect jobs that are created runs into several thousand. It is a major economic driver for South Australia and it is a sector with very strong potential growth.

Most of the growers are experienced operators who know both their products and their markets. Today, their farms are multimillion-dollar enterprises that families have invested their lives and their savings into. They are also accustomed to the risks that arise, such as fluctuating market demand and uncertain prices; low crop yields; weather damage to crops and property; and increased cost of materials, fertilisers, electricity, transport and other production necessities. These are uncertainties and risks that the growers factor into their livelihood. They contend with them each and every year. It is a different scenario, however, when the damage and the losses caused wipe out entire crops after tens of thousands of dollars have been expended in getting the crop ready for picking. These losses are in addition to the property losses that many of them also incurred at the same time—and that is exactly what happened last month after the extensive flooding.

As family enterprises, many growers are not in a position to withstand those kinds of losses; nor are they in a position to simply shut down and walk away from their farms. Indeed, these are people that have never asked for any help in the past but now they could do with some help. I am aware that at the time of the floods, the South Australian government set up a relief centre at the Virginia Horticulture Centre and some emergency relief financial support was made available, as well as some Recovery Assistance grants of up to $10,000. I commend the South Australian government for doing that but I am also conscious that many of the families were not eligible even for those grants and that support that was made available.

Furthermore, that is not the only support that the badly affected growers need to quickly get them back on their feet. And, indeed, we need to get them quickly back on their feet because it is in everybody's interest—particularly as the region is already reeling from the impending shutdown of Holden. The horticultural sector was seen, and is still seen, as a potential growth industry and an alternative employment sector for those people that may lose their work in the car industry.

There are, however, some specific matters that I want to refer to when I talk about additional government assistance and the government intervention that is required. Firstly, there is direct assistance required by the growers either to clean up the mess or to help reinstate what they had on their properties. Only today, AUSVEG, which represents most of the growers that are in that region, sent me a letter—and I imagine my colleague the member for Wakefield might have got something similar—talking about the needs of the growers and what can be done by government to assist. I will refer to some of the matters in that letter, if time permits.

Secondly, there needs to be a very clear plan and a commitment by all three levels of government to do something about improving the local infrastructure. Engineering works that have been talked about for the last 30 or 40 years—and which have not been carried out—directly contributed to the flooding that occurred. We all know what these engineering works are: increased levy banks, perhaps increasing the height the dam and perhaps clearing out the Gawler River in the lower reaches so that water can flow through them. But we also know that it costs money. None of that work has been done in recent years and, if it were done, it would ensure that the flooding is unlikely to occur in the future.

The third area that the government could help with is to assist growers in growing their businesses. That could be done by extending the Bolivar treated water pipeline further out and providing an additional amount of water to the growers that are there. Labor had committed to doing that in the lead-up to the 2016 election and we had committed $80 million for that purpose.

Those are the kinds of measures that will make a real difference to those growers: direct assistance, fix up the flooding problems in the first place and provide the growers with an opportunity to grow the very businesses that they have invested their life savings in. That is what AUSVEG and other growers have been doing. But we saw the Prime Minister going out there last month, and my question to him is: was it simply a media opportunity or will we see real funds contributed? (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Wicks ): Is there a seconder for this motion?

Mr Champion: I second the motion.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the member for Wakefield. Do you reserve your right to speak?

Mr Champion: I do.