Final approval of netting scheme a timely win for Hills growers

Final approval of netting scheme a timely win for Hills growers

The final approval for a $7.3 million netting scheme to help apple, pear and cherry growers in Mayo future-proof their orchards has been welcomed by the Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie.

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 in 2019.

The scheme was announced late last year as part of a $14.6 million program for South Australia with half the Commonwealth funds allocated for the wider Adelaide Hills region thanks to the advocacy of the Centre Alliance MP.

"I have been lobbying for this scheme since the 2019 election and I am pleased that the Federal Government recognised the need of growers in my community who have endured two successive seasons of devastating hail damage and now many of them are recovering from bushfire," Rebekha said.

"The Government elected to expand the scheme to other regions including the Riverland, which is welcome but led to some delays. Our community needs access to these funds now so it's encouraging to see the program finally signed off and ready to go."

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

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

“It will 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.

“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 in 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.”