Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:27): My question is to the Minister for Climate, Environment and Water. Is the minister aware of the salinity slug entering the River Murray from Lake Bonney that now is threatening crop damage? If so, what measures is she taking to prevent that crop damage? With your leave, and that of the house, sir, I will explain.
Mr WHETSTONE: Irrigators below Nappers are worried that their crops might be damaged or destroyed due to the high salinity levels which have more than doubled in the last two days to 706 EC as a result of the government reopening Lake Bonney to the river system?
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) (15:28): Thank you very much for the question. Yes, I have been kept apprised of that increase in salinity. For the information of the chamber, that is still within the expected level and also within the level that has been regarded as the basin target.
The basin target is to keep salinity below 800 EC at Morgan for at least 95 per cent of the time. At present, the briefing I have had it at 626, but I accept that the member may well have a more up-to-date level which he just quoted, in the 700s because that is starting to lift. But the expectation is that it will stay below the 800 as it moves through.
The water level at Lock 3 has been dropping really sharply, as the member will be aware. It dropped 11 centimetres in 24 hours the day before yesterday. It is expected to be maybe one to two weeks before the lock can be reinstated appropriately. There isn't any way to slow down the recession, to slow down the speed at which this is occurring. The department is closely monitoring the salinity levels. As I say, given that it is within what was anticipated and what is accepted as a basin-wide target for 95 per cent of the time, we will continue to monitor that at this stage.
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) (15:30): The approach that this government has taken all along is not to talk in terms of compensation and legal action but, in fact, to look at ways in which we can stand alongside the community and support it. There are programs, which the member would be well aware of, for grants for primary producers to assist them not only with the impact of the flood but also in the recovery.
The SPEAKER: Order!
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: That is the approach that we have been taking to date. As was canvassed extensively previously, this flood is far from over. The peak may well have passed and the recession may be occurring quickly, but the length of time that it's going to take to determine the lasting impact, or the impact of some longevity, and the ways in which South Australia collectively can respond to that is going to take some time.
The member, of course, will be involved in those discussions, as will other relevant members and their electorates, the people who are personally affected. The question of primary producers, I think, is one that's a fair question to ask: how well they've been spoken to recently about the impact on their land. Even the process of dewatering, for example, as the water recedes and there's still water sitting, trapped by the now re-emerging lower level levees.
That work has been initiated. Recently, we had some discussions via the recovery area in Premier and Cabinet, talking to PIRSA and talking to the Department for Environment and Water, making sure that they are far more actively present in the community, and contacting primary producers and understanding what their individual circumstances are. That is occurring and it will accelerate in the next few weeks.
Something that the Premier and I have discussed will also be on the Emergency Management Committee meeting on Monday, an item of importance to understand the significant impact for some farmers, so we will be in a better position to discuss the details of those kinds of responses in the future.