Michelle Lensink

Upper South East Dryland Salinity And Flood Management (Extension Of Project) Amendment Bill

This speech is regarding the Upper South East Dryland Salinity And Flood Management (Extension Of Project) Amendment Bill. This project is a drainage system to manage dryland salinity, water logging and the degradation of ecosystems in the Upper South-East.

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 17 November 2009. Page 3932.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (21:18): This bill relates to the Upper South-East project, which is defined for the purposes of this project from Lucindale in the south to Salt Creek in the North and Padthaway at its western boundary. The project is a drainage system to manage dryland salinity, water logging and the degradation of ecosystems in the Upper South-East. The project commenced in the 1990s and received legislative effect through the Upper South East Dryland Salinity and Flood Management Act 2002—known as the USE Act—which was last amended in 2006.

The project was developed initially because of the drop in the watertables. While it commenced in the 1990s, when it was much more damp, there have been significant salinity and flooding impacts. So, the project has had some success in balancing some of these effects, but it is acknowledged that it has had some negative impact on the environment with the drying out of wetlands and, therefore, habitat for some freshwater species.

There are different components to the USE scheme: first, the shallow flood control drains, which are adjacent to Keith; secondly, the deep drainage, which is the overall goal; and, thirdly, the reflows project, which is to restore environmental flows to wetlands in the Coorong instead of out to sea.

In 2007-08, the Natural Resources Committee was not sure about the Bald Hill drain and the ability of Reflows to restore environmental flows to the critical West Avenue wetlands. The USE Program Board's independent advice recommended the project. Reflows will partially redirect floodwaters along historic lines and therefore benefit wetlands and watercourses. I note that habitat is at very critical levels and that only some 0.6 per cent of pre-development wetlands are intact.

This bill seeks a further three year extension to the act to 19 December 2012, and it will facilitate Reflows within the drainage system, which will result in partially redirecting historic environmental flows, hopefully, into the Coorong. It also provides a regime for the acquisition of land by easement.

Due to recommendations made by the Natural Resources Committee in its 2007-08 annual report on the USE Act, two reviews were undertaken. The first was an independent review of the environmental implications of constructing or not constructing the proposed Bald Hill drain, and the second was an independent review of community perspectives of the Bald Hill drain and the Reflows project.

The result of these reviews was that there was a need to continue the project, as degradation would occur to those drains already established, and there was broad community support for this to occur. I note that there are some in the community in that region who are opposed to it, but I take some comfort from the Natural Resources Committee, which I think is a vigorous and very conscientious committee and examines these issues for the greater benefit.

The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing, and things may have been done differently if the project had initially been established in a different period in relation to how wet the conditions were in that region. However, the overwhelming recommendation of the Natural Resources Committee is to continue to complete the drains, and therefore the Liberal Party will be supporting this bill without amendment.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: That is what I meant when I said that the minister has agreed to formalise them. The honourable member has described what that means. Yes, my understanding is that the minister will be happy to provide that written information on his letterhead. Clause passed.

Clauses 2 to 11 passed.

Clause 12.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: This clause refers to fencing works and drainage reserves, and specifically states that some of these works may be required to be performed by the landholder. Is any funding available to assist landholders who may not have the resources to erect and maintain fences; and, if so, how much would be available?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: My advice is that it is the government's intention to construct all of the fences in association in the first instance.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: So, to clarify, the government will construct them and pay for them; and maintenance works will then become the responsibility of land-holders.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: My advice is that the overall maintenance program will become part of the subsequent legislation. I understand that that would be necessary. At this stage, as I said, it is the government's intention to fund the initial works and, in the long term, an agreement with land-holders on cost sharing would be developed.

Clause passed.

Remaining clauses (13 to 16), schedule and title passed.

Bill reported without amendment.

Bill read a third time and passed.

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