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Government dodges Macquarie Harbour fish-farm question

16 September 2015
Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES and WATER, Mr ROCKLIFF
 
The recent release through right to information of a departmental discussion paper about Macquarie Harbour water quality confirms that dissolved oxygen levels and subsequent disease outbreaks continue to be a problem for fish farms despite the Government dismissing these concerns when they were raised by the previous member for Bass, Kim Booth, and in the recent Senate Inquiry. Why was the entire section on stocking densities in the report redacted? Why was the sentence on page 11 listing the reasons behind the increase in acidosis deleted, as well as several paragraphs of the paper's conclusion? What is the Government hiding in regard to fish numbers and density in Macquarie Harbour pens?
   
ANSWER
Madam Speaker, the key question is, why are the Greens so anti-investment and anti-jobs in the salmon industry? And why is Labor all over the place on salmon?
   
I thank the member for her question because this is an important industry for Tasmania; it is a $500 million industry that we want to grow to a $1 billion industry. That is the industry target by 2030 and the Government will work alongside industry to ensure that that target is met, based on sustainable management. This is a major industry and a major contributor to the state's economy, so I do not know why the Greens are persistent in being anti-salmon industry, and therefore anti-jobs, in rural and regional Tasmania. They should be ashamed of themselves.
   
It is an industry we are very proud of in Tasmania. To ensure sustainable growth, we must have the processes in place to protect the environment and maintain the health and quality of our world-renowned Tasmanian salmon. We do this already through the records we framework for the marine farm industry. The Marine Farming Planning Act 1995 and the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 provide an integrated and very robust framework. They ensure ongoing sustainable management of salmon farming in Tasmania. It includes adaptive management principles to monitor water quality, sediment and fish health on an ongoing basis, and the capacity to make changes if required. The recent Senate inquiry into the regulation of the fin fish aquaculture industry in Tasmania saw very strong support for the industry from Federal Government members.
   
To further our processes we are currently considering the recommendations of that report. It is clear that Macquarie Harbour is an important part of the sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry and we have in place a very rigorous monitoring system enabling ongoing management decisions to minimise the impacts on our marine environment. However, because of its unique characteristics it is important that for this area we independently evaluate the monitoring processes we have in place. We want the best monitoring capabilities which identify if expanded marine farm operations are having an impact on the marine environment or fish health and enable appropriate management actions to be identified.
   
Macquarie Harbour is subject to a range of environmental conditions which makes the interpretation of observations in the context of salmon production particularly complex and, of course, we need to be aware that marine farming is not the only activity that is undertaken around this area. That is why we commissioned the international Cawthron Institute to review the monitoring processes in place and make recommendat6ions for improvement.
   
I am pleased to report to the House that we have received the review from the Cawthron Institute which highlights that we do have a framework in place with our monitoring systems and research stations for Macquarie Harbour. That is not to say the framework cannot be improved. Indeed, the review identifies a range of ways in all areas that monitoring programs can be strengthened. Regarding benthic monitoring, the report identified that the increased monitoring program already implemented has been largely effective for the adaptive management of farm-scale impacts in Macquarie Harbour but went on to suggest that it be reviewed and revised if appropriate once the research already underway in this area is completed.
   
As to water quality monitoring, the report considered the existing water quality monitoring effective for the purposes of tracking harbour-wide changes in Macquarie Harbour. It identified some knowledge gaps and recommended targeted research to strengthen what is already in place. In terms of fish health, the report considered that the existing area fish health management plan to be an effective framework consistent with good biosecurity practice. To strengthen the plan the report recommended a full coordinated approach to health surveillance and diagnostic investigation at a harbour scale rather than a site-by-site approach. An overarching recommendation of the report is that the department consider undertaking a comprehensive review of the harbour monitoring results related to data to explore relationships among production data, environmental variables and fish health to give a stronger basis for improving monitoring approaches and understanding both farm-scale and harbour-wide changes.
   
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker, on relevance, standing order 195 - the minister has not answered the question. Why are you hiding the information?
   
Madam SPEAKER - I will not accept the point of order. The question related to Macquarie Harbour and the Deputy Premier is giving a very detailed answer in relation to that and the report. I did ask the Deputy Premier to wind up so I will call on the next question.