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River Murray flood recovery to cost upwards of $200m

The total cost of responding to the River Murray flood is likely to exceed $200 million, with Treasurer Stephen Mullighan saying it will take weeks before the full extent of the damage is known.

Feb 02, 2023, updated Feb 02, 2023
Flooding at Mypolonga. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Flooding at Mypolonga. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

As River Murray floodwaters recede and restrictions gradually ease, the state government has turned its attention towards the recovery effort.

Early in the new year, it announced a $178 million state and federal-funded relief package heralded as the largest disaster recovery funding in the state’s history.

But Treasurer Stephen Mullighan told reporters yesterday that the total spend was now “approaching $200 million”, with that cost likely to increase as authorities get a better understanding of the damage.

“I do reasonably expect it will be more than that ($200 million),” he said.

“I think we will be in a pretty good position certainly by the time I release the state budget in June to have a good understanding of what those total costs should be.”

Mullighan said the government was currently working to get evacuated people back into their homes, clean up flood damage and assess levees.

He said it could take days or even weeks before authorities could determine the full extent of infrastructure damage, with fixing roads high on their agenda.

“We’re not going to know, for example, the full extent of how to repair those roads until the road base has dried out and we understand that’s still some days, maybe even weeks away,” he said.

“If we have to go back in, for example, and just resurface or reseal a road, that comes at a much lower cost than having to completely reconstruct some roads, which have either been partially or completely washed away.

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“We’ve got to remember that it’s not just the fact that floodwaters rose in inundated properties and washed over roads etcetera, they were actually fast-moving and they had a very strong scouring affect on land.”

A fridge and a mattress, thrust onto the banks by powerful River Murray flooding. Photo: Belinda Willis/InDaily

The Treasurer described floods as “a little bit more insidious than other natural disasters”, with the direct impact on communities lasting longer than bushfires.

“Unlike a bushfire, which can sweep through a community in a day or in a series of hours, these floodwaters get into these communities and damage them for weeks and months on end,” he said.

“This is a really significant disaster event for South Australia.

“Many people are going to have their livelihoods affected for a very, very long time, but we’ve made it absolutely clear that we’ll do what’s required to stand next to them and help them through that journey so that these communities can at the very least get back to where they were before the flood.”

It comes after workers on Monday removed the barrier that held back up to three metres of flood water from Lake Bonney.

Most recent modelling predicts River Murray flows at the border will fall about 45GL a day from February 3 to February 10.

“This is a steeper rate of fall than has been experienced up until this point and water users should take care and regularly check their boat moorings to make the necessary adjustments,” according to the Environment and Water Department flow report.

River flow is forecast to return to the main channel at around 40 GL per day during February, but many low-lying areas of the floodplain are expected to remain inundated for an extended period.

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