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Massive Opposition to Fish Farm Expansion on East Coast

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tags: Fish Farms, Okehampton Bay, Tassal, Maria Island, UNESCO, World Heritage, Recreational Fishing, Tourism, Environment

Ms WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I rise to draw the attention of the House to a very strong and vocal community meeting that occurred in Orford on the east coast about a week ago.  Forty eight local residents, shackowners, local recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen and women, members of the Chamber of Commerce, members of local councils and other people in the community, came together out of concern for developments that are proposed in the beautiful and pristine waters of Okehampton Bay where it is proposed that Tassal will have 28 fish farm pens, each roughly the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with a minimum of 800 000 fish, although by Tassal's own estimates more like 1.1 million fish.  This is, as we would all imagine, a matter of great community concern, not least because there has been no direct communication with the community by the minister or anyone in government about what is being proposed.  People there are rightly outraged at the lack of communication and notice the complete lack of respect for the community to not have an open and transparent conversation about it. 

The minister and this Government seriously underestimate the strength of opposition in this community to what is being proposed on the east coast.  These people are certainly not going to sit quietly.  I would sit down if I were you, minister, because these people are not sitting down.  These people are standing up and coming together with a strength Tasmania has not seen for some time, but I can assure you it will not be the last we hear of these people. 

A group has formed and has established a petition which I would like to draw to the attention of the Chamber.  It is headed 'No Fish Farms in Tasmania's Pristine East Coast Waters'.  It had 200 signatures in the first 24 hours and now has 576.  It has only been up for about a week.  I will read from what it says:

Tasmania's east coast has some of the most pristine waters and unique sea life.  These include crayfish, abalone, mussels, scallops, oysters, flathead and the rare leafy sea dragon.  Also, Mercury Passage is a listed gummy shark nursery.  These will be adversely affected by any fish farm developments.

We have won numerous tourism awards - Maria Island Walk, Avalon accommodation, Saffire accommodation, Freycinet National Park, Wineglass Bay.  Also, Maria Island National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site.

Tassal's proposal to erect 28 pens, each 135 metres in diameter, to breed more than 800 000 Atlantic salmon at Okehampton Bay directly opposite the marine park seven kilometres away, is located on Maria Island.  The Spring Bay area is very popular with recreational fishermen and women and holiday makers.  Tourism in this area generates hundreds of jobs.  Professional fishermen rely on this area for their livelihood.

It is a magnificent place of unspoiled natural beauty.  We only get one chance.  Do not let this area become polluted by tonnes of salmon excrement and visually polluted by the associated above-water infrastructure.

I notice the member, Mr Barnett, was calling out the other parties for not being present.  There were no members of the Labor or Liberal parties at this meeting but the community hopes they will become engaged in this issue and there is still plenty of time to show your support for your local communities.  Some of the groups that have signed up so far to this are the Recreational Fishing Association, the Abalone Council and the Rock Lobster Association.  This is not going down well with the existing industries in the area.  It is also not going down well with the local chamber of commerce which has sent a letter to Tassal on behalf of the community; a very extensive list of questions that Tassal has not yet responded to. 

Of more relevance to this House are the questions that individual members of the community have written to Minister Rockliff, which unfortunately have also not received a reply from the minister.  On behalf of the Greens, I have written a series of questions to the Deputy Premier about this.  They are serious matters that need to be answered.  There are great questions here of transparency and openness, starting with why the community has not had any consultation on this to date. 

This decision to approve finfish farming at Okehampton Bay is a serious threat to the seafood industry and that fragile marine area.  The fish farm approvals are being made by the minister and the fish farming branch in secrecy without the opportunity for public consultation.  The community understands this is expected to be a stepping-stone for the salmon industry along the east coast, starting at Marion Bay and heading as far north as they are capable.  It is no surprise to people who live in the D'Entrecasteaux and Huon channels to realise that these waters which industries have seriously polluted -

Time expired.