It’s clear from evidence presented today by the Director of the EPA to the Parliamentary Fin Fish Inquiry that decisions about fish farms are not being made at arm’s length from ministers, and the EPA is independent in name only.
The Director Wes Ford confirmed the EPA continues to be required to put industry profits ahead of environmental protection.
Under questioning, Mr Ford explained the EPA does not have a say in marine farming locations in Tasmania or even whether places like Macquarie Harbour are suitable for salmon farming.
The EPA is in the absurd position of being the responsible environmental regulator, while being bound by legislation to issue decisions consistent with the Government’s growth plan policy that aims to double the salmon industry by 2030.
The Director also admitted the community are not consulted on the development of environmental licence conditions and there is currently no mechanism for reviewing that process.
The Environment Protection Agency should have the protection of nature as its primary objective. Companies will always be motivated to make more profits, but responsible governments provide an independent environmental regulator that is empowered to ensure this does not happen at all costs.
Tasmania’s fish farm regulations don’t protect the interests of the community, which has a right to a say and to independent scientific assessment of marine impacts. The unwinding of environmental regulations commenced under a Labor government in 2011, and has been ramped up by the Liberals to support all industry operating preferences.
There is widespread community concern about the miserable marine regulations for what is now industrial-scale farming across our public waterways. Unfortunately, neither Liberal nor Labor party members would participate in the Inquiry, unprepared to hear from the community or to scrutinise the fish farm industry.
Our waterways are owned and used by all Tasmanians, they’re not just for the profit of a few massive companies.
Communities around Storm Bay, Okehampton Bay, the Tasman Peninsula, King Island, DÉntrecasteaux Channel and the Huon should have their voice heard and a right of appeal.
The Liberal Government needs a call a moratorium on new salmon farms and expansions until the State has an independent environmental regulator, and the industry operates with transparency, and is open to community input and appeal.