Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:18): I rise to give you a headline for tomorrow's paper, sir: the Riverland is not under water nor is the water running up the main streets, as many of the media have indicated along the course of the last week. The Riverland is bustling with activity; it is a hive of activity with river flows. The environment is looking magnificent. Our flood plains and our wetlands are currently experiencing a one-in-20-year drink, and it is magnificent to see.

I know that where I live at Spring Cart Gully the Gurra wetlands are experiencing a flooding event at the moment, but it is a wetland flooding event. It is not towns. It is not the region. What I would say to visitors and tourists is please come and visit the Riverland and have a look at the region in its splendour. The natural environment is having a wonderful time.

If we look at my most recent visit to the Chowilla regulator, we see all of the floodplains and the wetlands up there being slowly submerged. What that means is that both the red gum community and the black box community are now getting a drink. Some of those black box communities have not had a watering for 20 years. This is just music to the environment's ears. It is music to the Riverland's ears because we know that this will incentivise people to come and visit and have a much better look around.

Currently, coming into South Australia at the border we are experiencing about 80,000 megalitres a day. For many of you, 80,000 megalitres might mean the perception that we are under flood. That is not the case. The perception is that we will see in the next few years somewhere in the vicinity of it being bumped up to 100,000 megalitres a day, and then into December we could see as much as 120,000 megalitres.

It is all about timing. It is about the rainfall that we are about to experience. We know that in the Mid North we are seeing thunderstorms and flooding events on the roads and in some of that pasture country. But what we see in the river valley and what we see in the Murray-Darling Basin is that it is currently under stress. It is seeing significant rainfall.

In the catchments, particularly on the eastern seaboard, we are seeing significant stress. We are seeing water in the streets, some towns are fully submerged, but that is not the case in the Riverland. I want to make that really clear because I have had a number of conversations with some journalists who continue to use the 'f' word.

I urge everyone, journalists and commentators, not to use the 'f' word because it is a bit like using the 'd' word. The 'd' word is for drought—'Don't come to the Riverland because there is no water in the river.' 'Don't come to the Riverland because it is in flood,' which means the main street is under water. That is not the case. I want to reiterate that the Riverland is a great place to visit, but at the moment it is an even better place to visit as it experiences one of the great natural wonders, and that is significant inflows into South Australia to regenerate much of that wetland and flood plain that has been under severe stress for such a long time.

There are so many ways to enjoy the area. I know that Destination Riverland has been a very strong advocate, making sure that people are fully informed about where there is any inundation, where there are any threats with some of those river tracks in some low-lying areas in the Riverland and, of course, we will continue to monitor and keep people informed.

Another issue I would like to talk about today is the levee bank, particularly around the township of Renmark. This goes back a long time. I remember challenging the former Labor government and the then minister, saying that we needed to have some action to remediate some of that levee bank around Renmark. That was in 2012. Nothing happened. What we are seeing now is some uncertainty. There are forecasters, and I am working with both the Minister for Emergency Services and the Minister for Environment, and potentially the Minister for Infrastructure.

What we know is that there is a level of uncertainty and we do not want to have to go in there at the eleventh hour and think that we are going to fix up the levee bank. The levee bank is screaming out for help. It has been compromised over many areas. It has a lot of vermin that have lived in it for a long period of time—remembering that it was built in 1956—and so it is overdue for a fix up.

I am concerned that the minister today said that the truth is we do not yet know, yet we will send another team of people up there to assist the flood plain, and we might be able to get to it in a week or two. Time is of the essence. I urge the government, the council and the private landowners to please get on with the job and remediate that levee bank so that we can put people's minds at ease, particularly in the town of Renmark.

speeches feature