Tuesday, 20 December 2022

Questions without notice and ministers statements


Wendy LOVELL, Harriet SHING


Wendy LOVELL (Northern Victoria) (16:19): (3) My question is to the Minister for Water. Minister, during the October floods farms and residential properties in Bunbartha and Kaarimba that are not in the designated flood zone were flooded due to the levee bank surrounding Loch Garry breaching when the bars were not fully extracted from the loch, which would have allowed floodwaters to flow through the Bunbartha Creek system and natural waterways. Minister, what guarantees can you provide to those farmers and residential property owners whose properties are not in the flood zone that this will not happen again?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Water, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, Minister for Equality) (16:20): Thank you, Ms Lovell, for your question. President, at the outset I congratulate you on your role. It is good to be back in the Parliament.

I want to take this opportunity in answering this question at the outset to build on a number of comments that the Leader of the Government has made in her capacity as the Minister for Emergency Services. The October floods were completely devastating to so many communities across the state. It took a power of work to develop and maintain a level of resilience to be able to provide rescue response and relief efforts. The frontline response to the way in which communities such as Echuca and Rochester and indeed so many others were impacted is something that has taught us across government and indeed across the water sector so many things about the way in which we can not only build upon what has worked but continue to build back better.

When we talk about levees and we talk about the way in which flood incidents are managed, controlled and monitored, we know that there have been in the last 100 years around 4000 kilometres of levees constructed across Victoria. We also know that CMAs, catchment management authorities, and local government have been working really closely with communities to prioritise the sorts of levees that are required and indeed what is required to maintain them. There are quite specific guidelines in relation to the way in which levees are developed and maintained. They need to actually be able to serve the purpose for which they are established, and we know that some of these levees are developed and maintained in fact to a really high standard. That is not always the case, however. As those from regional and rural Victoria will know, many of the existing levees that operate and indeed continue to stand across rural and regional Victoria were built without any of the design standards that are necessary for them to do the work to actually keep water at bay.

In anticipation of flood events we need to make sure that we have integrity of levees that can be relied upon, and that is where – when we think about the $26.7 million that has been invested over four years and the way in which that will be dedicated to providing support for future flood response and taking those actions around levees – we then know that we need to partner with local councils. We also know that flood plain studies and indeed that work to maintain good modelling and good optical and visual understanding of the impact of floods on local communities let us know when and how this climatic volatility – as a consequence of three successive La Niña events and one-in-100-, one-in-500- and indeed one-in-1000-year flooding events – can be in fact managed. I want to acknowledge the work of water authorities, including those involved in the levees that you have talked about. And the work goes on to continue to provide flood response now and into the future.

Wendy LOVELL (Northern Victoria) (16:23): There was no answer there. I do not think we even heard the words ‘Bunbartha’ and ‘Kaarimba’ mentioned. Minister, drainage in the area is poor due to channel 12 blocking the natural depression, and some landholders were forced to pump water for several weeks to drain it from their homes and paddocks. Minister, what actions will you undertake to ensure drainage in the Bunbartha and Kaarimba area is improved?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Water, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, Minister for Equality) (16:24): Ms Lovell, it is interesting that you should be raising these questions with me here in the chamber. You actually contacted me directly about these matters in the course of the flooding, and indeed it was a good thing to be able to confirm with you, through the department, the way in which this assistance has been provided. The authorities have been continuing to provide pump and other assistance to people who have been impacted outside of those flood areas. You in fact know this and would know this from local press coverage, which has addressed this particular issue. Again, I am very, very happy to continue to provide you with assistance should you need it.

Wendy Lovell: On a point of order, President, I did contact the minister personally by telephone and I did not actually get an answer to my query.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order.