18th June 2020

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (15:24): Today, I rise to take the opportunity to speak about and reflect on the strength of my local community, particularly through the adversity of COVID-19, and how they have risen and rallied together through an uncertain period of time, particularly owning a local small business, running a farm or just being in a service sector.

It has shown me the capacity that my local community has during times of adversity. Yes, they are fairly well versed in it, having been through the drought, the hailstorms and the low commodity prices. But again they have rallied. They have looked after one another, and I commend some of the great work they have done. I must say that many of the local businesses have adapted through the crisis, implementing new processes, and the community has rallied behind them. We have had our 'Shop Local' mini campaign that has been very successful in Chaffey. It has shown that the locals are prepared to support local businesses, family businesses, so that they can still be there when we get to the other side.

Also, I want to acknowledge the number of tourists who came into the region over the long weekend. It was an outstanding success to see that some of those restrictions had been lifted. It meant that the Riverland was once again filled with visitors. People had come up to explore the River Murray. People had come up just to explore the hospitality of the Riverland. They came up to have a look at what our parks are doing. I must commend Destination Riverland for its Return to the Riverland campaign on behalf of every tourism operator and business that has weathered the storm, because we know that many of the tourism businesses have been severely impacted.

One of the parks I would like to talk about is the Katarapko section of the Murray River National Park, which has recently opened after an 18-month closure due to some of the environmental works that have been undertaken there. That was part of the South Australian Riverland Floodplains Integrated Infrastructure Program to improve the health and resilience of the flood plain.

I visited the Katarapko area of the park and also the structures. Of course, we know that this program is part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to look after our environment, making sure that the wetlands are watered, that those banks of river red gums close to the main channel get a frequent water, but also that those black boxes that are set further back from the watercourse get a water so that they can survive and be part of that thriving flood plain environment.

I refer also to the completion and construction of the regulators and the fishways. Again, that is about enhancing one of the great aspects of the Murray River National Park so that the flood plains are healthy, the wildlife is there, the fish are there and breeding, and it is a great spectacle. It was great to see that the park was booked out. It was full; it was almost overflowing. People were coming, whether they were camping or just there to see what all the fuss has been about with the reopening of Katarapko. I must commend the team, headed up by Benita Dillon from the department, who have lived that park for the past 18 months and have done an outstanding job.

While I was out and about, I visited the Loxton RSL sub-branch on their centenary. As restrictions have eased, it gave me the opportunity to visit the RSL sub-branch where I met with President Rob Manuel, OAM David Ward and the secretary, Lorraine Masters. They are a very strong, tight-knit team, doing an outstanding job on behalf of the RSL at Loxton. Recently, driving through the electorate, I had to drive down the Browns Well Highway. It is just outstanding news that a $15 million package has been brought forward through the COVID-19 stimulus. The contracts have recently been awarded, so the Browns Well Highway will be upgraded in the coming weeks. Great news! Also, the MRI will now be at the Riverland General Hospital thanks to a $3.5 million commitment, which is great news for health and great news for the Riverland.

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