Riverland Sustainable Futures Fund

20 Oct 2011 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Regional Development a question about the Riverland Sustainable Futures Fund.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yesterday in question time the minister announced a grant of $500,000 to Red Earth Farms to construct a 20 megalitre dam to irrigate 80 hectares of produce. The prospectus for funding from the Riverland Sustainable Futures Fund specifically refers to the Riverland's world-leading irrigation efficiency and, by implication, therefore suggests that funding would be best put towards the most efficient infrastructure, if it were to be funded.

My questions are:

1. What assessment was made of the site to ensure that the operation would, in fact, be exceptionally water efficient?
2. Was the Department for Water and/or the SA Murray-Darling NRM Board consulted, and what was their advice?
3. Can the minister advise whether the dam will be lined with clay?
4. Is the minister aware that surface water storages such as dams can lose up to 20 metres of water through evaporation compared to using pipes?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for Gambling) (14:35): I thank the honourable member for her question and for the opportunity to talk about this most important fund. The Riverland Sustainable Futures Fund is a $20 million fund that is available over four years to assist organisations, industries and other businesses in allowing the Riverland to develop a sustainable, long-term economic future. As we know, they went through extremely challenging times and have suffered significantly from one of the worst droughts in history, followed by floods, and this fund is about trying to assist businesses back on their feet, to attract new businesses and investments into the area and also assist in the transitioning of businesses.

The fund has to be matched, so there are criteria around that. There are also extremely rigorous assessment criteria that deal with a wide range of financial, technical and risk management aspects to do with each of the proposals. All of the appropriate technical, financial and legal expertise is applied. There is a rigorous process that each application goes through to ensure that the financials do add up, that the projects are viable and that the risks associated with the project are minimal and that they are, in the medium to longer term, viable projects. We make sure that the project is able to achieve what it proposes to achieve.

Each of the applications go through that; this one did as well. A panel of different experts from various agencies are involved in that. It is on a case-by-case or application-by-application basis—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Mr Dawkins will come to order.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: It depends on what the proposal is and what technical aspects are involved as to what expert advice might be needed in that assessment. It varies case by case. I assure the member that I am confident that this application, like all others, would have gone through the appropriate scrutiny and met all the necessary rigour.

In terms of consultation and advice, the RDAs play a pivotal role on the ground assisting in attracting partnerships, in promoting the Riverland Sustainable Futures Fund, assisting people to put their applications together, providing advice and encouraging interest and activity in that area. We were very pleased that the applicant for this particular fund, although they have only been operating this particular business for two years, has been in that industry for something like almost 30 years—

The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins: You said 40 yesterday.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Thirty, 40—I said 'around'. They have extensive experience in that field.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Lensink has a supplementary question arising from the answer.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:39): Yes, notwithstanding the fact that the minister did not answer any of my questions, but arising from the answer: when she referred to rigorous assessment criteria can she confirm whether it was only RDA or whether any other water agencies were consulted and, if not, will she take it on notice and bring back replies, including to my previous questions?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for Gambling) (14:39): The Department for Water was involved in this assessment and I believe SARDI had input as well.