Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:07): My question is to the Minister for Environment and Water. Will the government provide funding to undertake engineering works to prevent further breaches of the River Murray levee bank network?
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Deputy Premier, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Minister for Defence and Space Industries, Minister for Climate, Environment and Water) (15:07): We have already spent about $3 million working on levees in the region, and we will continue to spend money. There are two significant stages associated with what is needed to happen post the flood.
The first is to stabilise the levees sufficiently that dewatering is able to happen and that primary production is able to return to that land. That has been the priority and continues to be the priority. Much of that work has already occurred, although, of course, with these particular levees that has set them back somewhat.
The next stage is to determine how much money we collectively want to spend on the levees, to what height they need to be built back and who ought to own them. As many people will recall, during the time of the flood there were discussions about how some levees, particularly those further north, had been under dispute since the 1950s about who owned them, what land they were on and who was responsible for their maintenance.
A working group was set up under the auspices of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. Engagement has occurred with landholders, and that working group has looked at various options for what is to be done in the intermediate and longer term. That will be considered in due course by government as to what can be afforded and what is the appropriate way of managing those levees, both the flood levees further upstream and the agricultural levees that we are discussing that have experienced the overtopping and, in one case, a breach.
That work will happen, but what won't stop while that consideration is occurring is genuine continuance of making sure that the stabilisation of the existing levees occurs and that primary production is being returned to as quickly as possible across that area.