Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 16:04 :00 ): I want to take my first opportunity to speak in parliament in this year to talk about the very important Cadell ferry. Members who have been here for a while will know how the government tried to close it down a few years ago and the community, with passion, pride, integrity and local knowledge, fought that, and they got support from all over the state in that fight. I attended a meeting at Cadell very recently, along with Mid Murray Council’s mayor Dave Burgess, several councillors and other community members, including people who require the ferry for heavy agriculture vehicle transport across the Murray River at Cadell.
At that meeting, there were also departmental officials who came to explain a very concerning issue to us, and I thank them for their openness and honesty in the way they described the fact that they need to downgrade the load rating at the Cadell ferry from 50 tonnes to 16 tonnes. We understand that safety imperative; there is nobody in the community who wants to take any risks with regard to the Cadell ferry. But there is nobody in the Cadell community who wants to lose that ferry either.
The downgrading of this ferry is because it is one of the four remaining wooden ferries left on the Murray, so there are three other ferries also at risk. My particular interest is the Cadell ferry, and it is clear that the internal metal skeleton structure, which is cased by wood, is actually starting to deteriorate very seriously and is not safe for large vehicles. The community is very concerned though that this might lead—either deliberately or not deliberately—to the removal of the Cadell ferry in the long run.
The Hon. S.C. Mullighan interjecting:
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: I am grateful, and I appreciate the transport minister’s assurances that that is not the case. We left the meeting with a very responsible position. Essentially, what I said and what other community members said is, ‘Look, we understand the safety requirement. If the load rating needs to be downgraded for a limited known period of time until another newer, high‑capacity ferry can replace it, we can live with that. We understand that it needs to be replaced.’
The government has funded the building of two new ferries. There are actually two or three more ferries that still need to be funded. So, the reason for me speaking today is to say that the community understands. If we get a guarantee in the relatively near future of when another ferry will come into service at Cadell to replace the existing one and that time is not too far away, we can live with that and we understand that is the process the government needs to go through. But we need that assurance soon.
If we do not get that assurance soon we will start to wonder what is going on. Our fears will be heightened, and the community will step forward again in a very forceful way to defend its ferry and its community because the ferry is necessary, obviously, for heavy agricultural machinery. It is very important for tourism. It is very important for schoolchildren to get to school, for emergency services, for Meals on Wheels—for a whole range of needs.
I thank the departmental staff led by Mr Paul Gelston on the day who said that in around about August he would be able to tell us when a new ferry would be coming. And let me be very clear: he made no specific commitment on the date. That was his estimated timeframe. I am not trying to put words in his mouth, but we welcomed and appreciated the fact that he was able to give us that date. He said that he would get back to us as soon as possible, and if sometime later in the year we are going to have a new ferry that would be fantastic—we will live with the downgrading in the load rating in the interim.
I say to the Minister for Transport, the Treasurer and the Premier, the ferry must be replaced, and one of the very important steps to secure the replacement of this ferry and, of course, the other three wooden ferries that are at risk on the Murray, is to ensure that in the upcoming budget there is money made available to build an additional two, or ideally three, new ferries for the entire river. That would then give the transport department all of the ferries it needs, which is 14, for the entire river including two at Mannum plus the two spares they need so they can always have two out of service for maintaining and upgrading. It is the department’s own internal guideline or assessment that they always need to have two spares. We need two or three more ferries to be funded in the next budget and we also need the Cadell community to be told exactly when their replacement ferry will arrive.