Drought forum

Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (15:32): I rise today to talk about a recent event in the electorate of Flinders, and that is the visit of our Premier, the Hon. Steven Marshall, and the acting minister for primary industries, the Hon. Dan van Holst Pellekaan, who visited Cleve on Tuesday 11 February as part of their drought tour last week.

Cleve was, in fact, the first cab off the rank. The Premier and the minister flew into Cleve and I met them at the airport, the airstrip—the aerodrome, let’s call it. We drove into Cleve and hosted a drought forum attended by some 60 people in the brand-new Cleve sports club to which the Marshall Liberal government contributed over $600,000. What a wonderful vote of confidence in that community that is, because they have been doing it tough.

It has been the third dry year in a row, as 2017, 2018 and 2019 all had below average rainfall in the Cleve district and certainly east of that, towards Cowell and on the Cowell flats, south of it towards Arno Bay, north to Darke Peak and now Kimba. These areas have also been experiencing dry seasons, so it is important that the Premier visit and hear from people. It is on the back of a visit some 12 months earlier, when we met in Cowell and Arno Bay.

Frost has also been a problem; it is not just the dry conditions. Historically, frost seems to be a problem in the drier years and it has exacerbated the harsh seasonal conditions, so much so that in an area like Darke Peak some producers have now had up to five years below average in a row. But people are resilient and took the opportunity to talk to me, the Premier and the minister about various issues, including mental health and how farmers, their families, business owners and community people in general, coped with the mental stress that dry seasonal conditions can bring. Of course, it is not just about farmers. Towns such as Cleve, Kimba and Darke Peak, too, rely very much on the surrounding farming families for their businesses. If the farmers are suffering, then so do the businesses. It is something that consumes the whole community. Mental health was an issue.

The ability to attract and retain health professionals and staff is an ongoing issue, and I am pleased to see that this government is now in the process of developing the Rural Health Workforce Strategy, and we are contributing some $20 million to that. Roads were another topic to come up, and they are always a topic for country people. Around $32 million is going into the roads of Eyre Peninsula primarily on the back of the closure of the rail corridor, but it certainly will be welcomed by the locals as they see improved road conditions.

The issue of fencing also came up. Obviously, there have been some soil erosion problems as a result of the dry years. My anecdotal evidence is that there is less bare ground at the moment than there was 12 months ago, so credit goes to those farmers who have been able to re-establish some ground cover, but it has not been easy. It is just a matter of how councils and landowners deal with sand drift, which banks up against fences and sometimes blows fences out. It also impedes the traffic along roadways. That has been a significant task for them.

We as a government recently announced a further $21 million Drought Support Program. Included in that are extra FaB scouts, who were introduced last year. They are mentors and sponsors through the community who act in that role with drought-affected families. We have also introduced a $7½ million red meat and wool initiative, and we continue to support the adoption of AgTech solutions.

All of that is wonderful. Governments cannot make it rain. It would help no end if we returned to more reasonable seasonal conditions, and we remain optimistic that that will happen. I thank the Premier and the minister for visiting Cleve. It was the first stop on a big day when they went on to visit Hawker, Orroroo and Mar

 

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