Riverland Spring Events

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:43): I rise to speak about spring in October in the Riverland and Mallee. It really has been quite an opening of the season, particularly with everyone noting that when spring is upon us, everything springs to life—all the plants, the flowers, the trees, the vines—everything shows signs of life. I would like to mention some of the events that are happening in the region, particularly the Riverland and Mallee, and it is a showcase of what the region has to offer.

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:43): I rise to speak about spring in October in the Riverland and Mallee. It really has been quite an opening of the season, particularly with everyone noting that when spring is upon us, everything springs to life—all the plants, the flowers, the trees, the vines—everything shows signs of life. I would like to mention some of the events that are happening in the region, particularly the Riverland and Mallee, and it is a showcase of what the region has to offer.

It is not just about offering the region to people here in South Australia: we have many international and national visitors coming to the region, particularly for the rose festival, because we have world-renowned David Ruston with his rose collection, and the whole region comes to life. I would like to start with some of the events that I have attended, and I would like to also acknowledge the volunteers who support all of these events along the way.

The Loxton show started off the October spring, and it has been a highlight of that region. It is a mini Adelaide show with wood chopping, livestock and equestrian events. One of the highlights of the Loxton show is the produce judging, and that is something that I am very keen on because I am a bit of a jam maker, and I do like to get in amongst the women and compete and compare our glossy jam. That was a really good event.

Then we moved on to the Pinnaroo Show. Pinnaroo is obviously the potato capital of the world, but one thing that the Pinnaroo Show is really renowned for is its Jack Russell racing. The Jack Russell racing really does draw the crowd, and many people save getting to the Pinnaroo Show until 4.30 in the afternoon to see the race. The farmers have finished their day and they come in and everyone brings in their Jack Russells and it really is quite a sight to see. I might like to say that I did manage to win a first place gold trophy for my jam at the Pinnaroo Show, so I am very proud.

Moving down to Barmera, we had the running of the sheep, which coincides with the Barmera sheep dog trials. It really was quite a spectacle to see a semitrailer load of sheep being let out of the truck up at the top end of the main street and running down to the football oval. Many people gather and it really is just a social function for people to watch the sheep run from one end of town to the other but then, as I say, the Barmera sheep dog trials proceed after that.

In amongst that we had the Riverland Auto Expo. The Riverland is very proud of its enthusiasm for motorsport, and it is not just about cars and it is not just about motorbikes. It is about tractors; it is about boats; it is about anything that has a motor in it, anything that moves, anything that makes a noise, anything that is shiny and people love to present. The numbers were down but, as I was made aware, there were six car shows on the October long weekend, so I think the Riverland performed extremely well.

From there I travelled to the farmers' market as I do every Saturday that I am in the Riverland. It was great to see a lot of our visitors coming into the region actually recognise the farmers' market. They go there and buy their produce because they know that coming into the region—into a fruit fly free zone—it is easier to buy your fruit and veg fresh from the producer at the market, rather than carting it all the way up from where you are coming from into the region. That word is travelling, and I think it is a great acknowledgment that people are now leaving their fruit and veg at home and coming up to the region to holiday and buy it up there.

Just quickly, we had the Barmera Main Street Markets and we had the Cobdogla Irrigation and Steam Museum open day. We had the Centenary of Rail in Alawoona—what a spectacle! We had many people there and I opened that up. I did meet people that had been there for many years. They got there when it was a railway town and moved in. One gentleman told me that when he started school it had 170 students, but by the time he got to year 6 the school was closed. The railway line had been put together, put into production and off they went. I also met an elderly couple that looked after me when I was two, so that was great.

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (17:14): I would like to continue my remarks from earlier on today about spring in October in the Riverland and the Mallee. I particularly want to touch on the launch of wi-fi across the Riverland region this coming week, and I am delighted to be a part of that.

I will be launching the first of the wi-fi access in Waikerie on Friday morning. I think it is a great contribution not only to tourism but to making it easy to access information—easy for tourists and easy for passing trade to come into the region and access that information on where to stay, where to eat and where to go. I think it really is a great thing, particularly on the back of the launch of Destination Riverland's new website, and it really is a fantastic website.

Tourism is one of those industries that the Riverland and Mallee have always embraced, but we are now seeing more tools in place, we are now seeing businesses being developed, and we are seeing them being developed with very little government help, so I think that is a great achievement. In saying that, I do look with envy at some of the other regions in South Australia that the government is backing.

The government is putting the spotlight on some of those regions, and I am calling on the Minister for Tourism to give some more consideration to putting a bit more of a spotlight on some of the other regions, particularly the Riverland, and helping with tourism. We are not looking for the big dollar package they are tipping into some of the other regions, but we are looking for a hand up to help.

In saying that, the opening of the Renmark Club is coming up this Friday, which is part of a multimillion dollar renovation. The town of Renmark is abuzz because not only is it one of the best vantage points on the River Murray in the Murray Darling Basin but it is a fantastic facility and it has probably some of the most spectacular views of the river. Right before that, Renmark will be opening up their wi-fi, so that is great to see.

With the opening of the club and the wi-fi, and with what it has achieved and offers with its upgrading and its food packages, the Renmark Club has now been acknowledged as one of the top regional clubs in the state, particularly as a destination wedding venue. It is great to see that the Renmark Club is again wooing people from all parts of Australia who are coming just for a wedding. They are not people who have lived there or who are coming home for a wedding: they are people who have recognised what a beautiful place it is and want to come and be a part of it.

The Renmark Rose Festival will again be packing out the streets and, as I have already said, we have the famous Ruston's Roses. David Ruston is world famous for his arrangements and renowned for his different varieties of roses that have been named after him or put into bud lines in respect of what he has achieved over many years within that industry.

We have many gardens that are open. This year, we have a record 24 gardens open and more than 30 attractions around the town. The place is coming alive in spring, particularly with the blooms of flowers and roses, and the climate is particularly suited to roses and producing some of the best displays of roses anywhere in the nation. The accommodation is booked out, buses will be visiting and, of course, Renmark already has its own rose named after it.

Also being held in the region is the Wine and Food Festival. That always attracts many people from outside the region, which is great news because it brings people into the region to explore some of the new alternative wine varieties. Believe me, Mr Deputy Speaker, you will be hearing more about some of these alternative varieties. There are a lot of Mediterranean varieties that are easy to drink. They are new styles that come out of the Riverland.

They are a style of wine that now complements the region. We are not trying to compete with some of the cooler climate areas with the standard varieties such as shiraz, cabernet, chardonnay and the like. We are growing some unique warm climate varieties that have a unique taste and unique characteristics about them. I note that Ashley Ratcliff is part of that alternative wine group and has just been named horticulturalist of the year, so congratulations to him.

Before I wind up, I will mention some other events. We have the Relay for Life taking place in the region. We also have the Loveday 4x4 Adventure Park Challenge coming up. Anyone who has been on the Sturt Highway after a weekend may have noticed 4x4s coming back covered in mud. Those people have probably been to the Loveday 4x4 Adventure Park and had the time of their life.

There is accommodation on the river with adventure tracks, challenging tracks and driver training. I think the Whateley family do a fantastic job in bringing visitors to the region for the benefit of not only tourism and the region but also people who are car enthusiasts or 4x4 adventurers. They can go and safely explore these tracks and put their vehicle to the test.

There is also the Tri-State Rodders 28th Annual Campout/Car Show taking place in the region. That is another motoring event that will be on display in the Riverland. I know the member for Schubert is a very keen car enthusiast; not that he is a keen Tri-State Rodder, but he is very keen on restoration and the like with his car collection.

Spring in October in the Riverland and Mallee is really alive. With our growing tourism market, I am very encouraged by the number of events that attract tens of thousands of people to the region. Visitors are vitally boosting our economy, and there is no doubt that October is proving to bring in a very important influx of tourists.

As I have said, I watch with envy some of the other regions that the government has shone its spotlight on with funding, endorsement and boosting tourism. I think it is probably the Riverland and the Mallee's turn. I think the government should turn its attention to this region and share a bit of support and maybe some funds to better support the tourism industry.

I think Destination Riverland is doing a magnificent job, as are the businesses and the people of the Riverland, looking at supporting an industry. It is a growing industry, but it is an industry that is vital to our economy. Mr Deputy Speaker, it is spring in October and, if you have a spare moment, do feel free to visit the Riverland and Mallee.