SA hort sector calls for flood mitigation funding

SA hort sector calls for flood mitigation funding

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NEEDED: Renee Pye, with father Mark. Renee says growers need support to help mitigate future flood events.

NEEDED: Renee Pye, with father Mark. Renee says growers need support to help mitigate future flood events.

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A grower group is urging investment in the $27m Virginia Floodway project.

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FOUR years on from devastating floods that cost the horticulture industry an estimated $50 million, a grower group is urging local governments along the Adelaide Plains to finally invest in the $27m Virginia Floodway project.

Ausveg SA chief executive officer, Jordan Brooke-Barnett, said the local councils involved in the Gawler River Flood Management Authority, which includes the City of Playford, Adelaide Plains and Light Regional councils, should make use of the recent Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program announcements from the federal government to support a major employer in the region.

The Virginia Floodway project was proposed after the 2016 floods and aims to maintain and widen the Gawler River to minimise the impact of future floods.

Big contributor

HORTICULTURE in the Northern Adelaide Plains has a farmgate value of more then $500m - worth more than $1 billion each year at the retail level.

It also directly employs more than 3000 people in the region, and indirectly contributes to another 3000 jobs.

Zerella Fresh grower, Renee Pye, who is also Ausveg SA deputy chair, said this was an industry that contributed significantly to the local and SA economies.

She said their land had been flooded in the past, and while lucky enough to miss out in 2016 - thanks to a lot of time spent building banks in the lead up - she was aware of the damage it could wreak.

LONG WAIT: An image from the 2016 floods. Picture: RICHARD VERNER

LONG WAIT: An image from the 2016 floods. Picture: RICHARD VERNER

"We almost lost a $500,000 onion crop, and that's just one crop, and there are so many others out there," she said.

"There is a massive amount at stake, and lots of jobs as well."

Ms Pye said a potential flood would also end up with contracts to fill supermarket shelves in danger.

"The growers need help and want action on this," she said.

Investment stalled

MR Brooke-Barnett said the uncertainty about the future of region along the river was hindering investment.

"Ausveg SA is aware of over $50m of investments planned for the Gawler River corridor, which could potentially bring another 300 jobs, which are being drawn out due to ongoing uncertainty regarding regional flood protection," he said.

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"The Northern Adelaide Plains is one of Australia's largest horticultural regions and the largest protected and covered cropping region in the Southern hemisphere.

"It is time for local government to find funding in light of their recent windfall and invest to protect our sector against the devastation of floods."

Discussions underway

GRFMA executive officer, David Hitchcock, said the implementation of competition of the Northern Floodway Project remained the highest priority, with efforts ongoing.

"Significant funding assistance from government and other parties is required before this can be achieved and the Authority has been working with the state and federal governments on possible funding options," he said.

"The Authority is having discussion with the State Government's Stormwater Management Authority on requirements to develop a Storm Water Management Plan for the Gawler River and plans to undertake a Stage One - 30 per cent design of the Northern Floodway Project as an aligned process."

He said any decision to use the LRCIP funding was up to individual councils.

Adelaide Plains Council chief executive officer, James Miller, said council members and management would be workshopping potential projects for the LRCIP funding later this month, ahead of formally considering and endorsing projects at the July council meeting.

The City of Playford and Light Regional Council were also contacted for comment for this article.

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The story SA hort sector calls for flood mitigation funding first appeared on Stock Journal.

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