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Barnett Refuses to Release Marine Farming Review Panel Resignation Letter

20 Nov 2018

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Environment spokesperson

Under questioning from the Greens in Parliament today, the Minister for Primary Industries, Guy Barnett, refused to release the resignation letter of two key scientists from the Marine Farming Review Panel. Their resignation letter was sent just after the Storm Bay fish farm expansion was recommended for approval.

Louise Cherrie, a specialist in environmental management, and Professor Barbara Nowak, an expert in aquatic health and biosecurity, both resigned on 27 August after the Panel completed a report recommending the Storm Bay expansion be approved.

The scientists’ resignation, and the Minister’s cover-up of their subsequent letter with reasons for resignation, further clouds the assessment and approval of this massive fish farm expansion.

Minister Barnett’s actions underscore the corrupted nature of the approval process for the Storm Bay salmon farming expansion.

Many coastal communities, like those of the Tasman Peninsula, Southern Beaches, Clarence, Bruny Island and the along the Derwent Estuary, presented substantial evidence to the Marine Farming Review Panel during days of public hearings.

These revealed the limited baseline science around a range of marine risks to Storm Bay from the proposed salmon farms, most notably damage from exceedingly high nitrogen loads. With 40,000 tonnes of salmon planned in production each year, the sewage load would be six times that currently in the Derwent River.

Those who made submissions to the Storm Bay hearings got no response from the Panel. It appears neither their evidence nor the concerns of the Panel’s key marine scientists were heeded in the decision to approve both Tassal and Huon Aquaculture’s expansions.

The Storm Bay approval was announced on 29 October, by the acting Minister and Premier, two months after the Marine Panel completed their report. Due to that two month delay, a cloud already hung over the approval processes, due to the personal relationship between the former Minister and her Department Secretary.

It was the Premier, as Acting-Minister, who approved the Storm Bay expansion, along with the shuffled-over EPA Director, acting as Department Secretary.

The stink around the Storm Bay expansion approvals for Tassal and Huon Aquaculture is growing more pungent. The Liberals have given salmon companies everything they want, but left scientists and communities out in the cold.

The only way for Minister Barnett to salvage the credibility of the Tasmanian salmon industry is to release the letters from the Panel’s two scientists, rescind this corrupted Storm Bay approval, and hold a moratorium on all developments so that a genuine independent scientific process can be established.