Centre Alliance secures $7.3M for Mayo netting scheme

Centre Alliance secures $7.3M for Mayo netting scheme

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has negotiated a $7.3 million scheme to help apple, pear and cherry growers in Mayo future-proof their orchards with environmental covers.

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie is pictured with Hills apple growers Susie Green, left, Matthew Flavell and Jody Schultz at a netted Ceravolo Orchard at Nairne prior to the Apple & Pear Growers Association of SA annual meeting last month.

The dollar-for-dollar scheme will allow orchardists to apply for up to $300,000 in funding to offset the cost of netting, also known as environmental covers, which can cost around $60,000 per hectare to establish.

The Mayo component is part of a $14.6 million trial program being rolled out for the South Australian horticultural industry in the Adelaide Hills, the Greater Adelaide Region and the Riverland.

“This scheme is not about providing a handout; it's about a hand up,” Rebekha said today.

“It would provide long-term certainty and sustainability for our grower community in the Hills which has been doing it tough in the last couple of seasons with severe hailstorms causing immense destruction.

“There is a fear that climate change is making volatile the new normal.

“Indeed, there is a relatively high degree of scientific certainty that South Australia will face more severe storms into the future.

“Climatic pressures are also displacing flying fox and bird populations, leading to increased damage in horticultural regions across Mayo.”

Rebekha said the local community had supported hail-affected growers through initiatives such as the Hailstorm Heroes marketing campaign which encouraged consumers to buy hail marked fruit, but more needed to be done.

“After seasons of devastation, many growers do not possess the funds necessary to make the capital investment in netting as future insurance to protect their crops,” Rebekha said.

“Following consultation with industry, I went to the Government with this scheme and I am pleased that they have considered the evidence for our case and agreed to fund the program.

“In addition to storm protection, a 2015 report by the Apple and Pear Growers Association of South Australia has noted that netting would provide water savings of between 15 and 45 per cent and temperature decreases of between one and three degrees on warm days and between three and six degrees on hot days.

“My community and other communities want their kids and their grandkids to be able to eat Australian fruit into the future.

“We need to make sure that we can support our growers so this can happen and I thank the Government for supporting this important initiative.”

Susie Green, the Chief Executive of the Apple & Pear Growers Association of South Australia and the Executive Officer of the Cherry Growers Association of South Australia, said the scheme was great news for fruit growers in the Mayo.

“Environmental covers are absolutely crucial for the future sustainability of fruit production in the region, helping industry to maintain its long tradition of producing high quality fruit for Australian and key export markets,” Susie said.

“Growers cannot continue to sustain the levels of losses that they have experienced in the past few years from a range of environmental factors including birds, grey headed flying foxes, extreme heat and hail.

“This investment will support industry to rebuild and help protect more of the grower’s crops sooner than would otherwise be possible.”

Ashley Green, President Apple & Pear Growers Association of South Australia, is also supportive of the scheme.

“Installing netting is one of the biggest challenges facing fruit growers of our generation and it is extremely expensive,” Ashley said.

“It is also the most sustainable way for us to protect our crops while looking after the wildlife. This announcement is a big step forward for industry.”