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Hydro Tasmania - Macquarie Harbour

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Friday, 2 December 2022

Tags: Hydro Tasmania, Macquarie Harbour, Fish Farms

Dr WOODRUFF - I've another question. Minister, dissolved oxygen levels in Macquarie Harbour continue to be critically low and were noted to be low recently. It has serious consequences for the health and survival of the critically endangered Maugean skate, as well as the salmon that are farmed there. Has Hydro been requested to modify flows to ameliorate the dissolved oxygen levels in the harbour? If that's happened, would Hydro be renumerated for the service? Has it already happened?

Mr BARNETT - Thanks very much for the question. Of course, I'm aware of your interest in Macquarie Harbour based on your long time position and opposition to the Tasmanian salmon industry.

Dr WOODRUFF - A long time love of the World Heritage Area and wilderness -wildness of the place.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, let the minister answer please.

Mr BARNETT - Yes, we are well aware of that opposition to the sustainable salmon industry in Tasmania. In terms of the specifics of the latter part of the question, I'll pass to the CEO.

Mr BROOKSBANK - Thank you, minister, and through you. Yes, we've been made aware of the Tasmanian salmon farmers' concerns. We've recently met with the TSGA to discuss how we would work together on the concerns they have. We wrote to them as recently as yesterday in response to a letter that the Tasmanian Salmon Farmers Growers Association requested of us. That request is around potential members to join a committee. The scope and terms of reference for that committee was similar to the Macquarie Harbour water quality working group and also for advisory and other decision-making capacities.

Dr WOODRUFF - Will there be any environmental scientists or conservationists on that committee to provide advice? Who will provide advice about the Maugean skate?

Mr BROOKSBANK - The response back to the Growers Association was yesterday. My understanding is that there is a wide range of people who would be interested being on the committee but I am not aware at this stage, other than that there will be industry representatives, vets and other experts on the committee, based on who they have reached out to, but I am not aware of specific members.

Dr WOODRUFF - Will you commit to including a wildlife ecologist or appropriate marine scientist to provide that perspective?

Mr BROOKSBANK - We have been invited to attend the committee. It is not our committee to convene; we have only been asked to attend. The Tasmanian Salmon Growers Association have the ownership of that and the question would be better directed towards them.

Dr WOODRUFF - Sure, but if you are going to provide the water, potentially you are going to provide the solution. Wouldn't you want to know that the rationale for it was properly scientifically based? Have confidence in the quality of the decision-making of the committee?

Mr BARNETT - Thank you for the question. Before the CEO, may or may not wish to respond further, there is clearly an agenda here from the Greens to close down our sustainable salmon industry

Dr WOODRUFF - To have science involved in these conversations.

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Mr BARNETT - which we support as a government and have done for years. Now we have a 10-year salmon plan out for consultation. That is the Government's position and hypothetical questions and speculative questions being put to the CEO are exactly that. If the CEO wants to add anything, he is more than welcome.

Mr BROOKSBANK - What I would add, is that we have been invited to join the committee and we will work with everybody on that committee to ensure that we are involved in the solution.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, there has been quite a degree of public concern, that's to put it mildly, at the very low levels of dissolved oxygen in Macquarie Harbour and the impact on them or Maugean skate, which has been living for a long time with low dissolved oxygen levels as a result of the fish farming intensity in Macquarie Harbour. Why isn't it the company's responsibility to manage the problem instead of Hydro's responsibility to try to find a solution? Who's going to pay for it? Isn't this all about protecting the skate as a cover up for the fish farm damage that is occurring in Macquarie Harbour?

Mr BARNETT - Through you Chair. This is a Hydro GBE scrutiny hearing. It is not a matter for Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania, but -

Dr WOODRUFF - Hydro's committed to finding a solution.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, please let the minister answer.

Mr BARNETT - The CEO made it very clear, just a few moments ago, of the willingness of Hydro Tasmania to be a member of that committee and positively contribute to that committee to get to a mutually agreeable outcome. I am not sure that anything further can be added to that answer at this stage.

Dr WOODRUFF - Chair, that was one question. I know that people might not have liked that question, but it is fair and reasonable at this point to ask a second question.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, I have made a decision to hand it to Mr Winter.

Dr WOODRUFF - Because of the politically uncomfortable nature of the question. As long as that's recorded in the Hansard.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, we are here for the Hydro GBE. Not about salmon.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, this was about Hydro sitting on TSGA and this was about Hydro.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, we are here about Hydro, not about the salmon industry. Now I am handing it to Mr Winter.

Dr WOODRUFF - I know it is very uncomfortable for everyone to talk about the truth here.