Dr WOODRUFF question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN
One of the most controversial decisions made by your former minister for primary industries was to approve a marine farming development proposal for Huon Aquaculture to farm in the previously salmon-free, pristine Norfolk Bay without a chance for the community to voice your views. It is now clear your ex-minister has utterly failed to respect the apolitical role of her most senior public servant, with the obvious power imbalance raising a question about the integrity of all his decisions.
Given your Government's election commitment to double the size of the salmon industry again, how confident are you that Ms Courtney did not induce her secretary to look the other way and hurry through a convenient arrangement for the salmon industry that broke the Government's own draft environmental regulations?
Madam Speaker, whilst it is mildly amusing to listen to the latest kooky conspiracy theory the Greens have cooked up to sustain an argument, it is entirely without foundation. I again reject the assertions with respect to the development of our policy and also in relation to decisions made by the minister, supported by the Government, and in this instance supported by a range of other steps we have undertaken to develop a sustainable growth plan for Tasmania's salmon industry. That has long been part of our commitment and part of the work we have done in this and the previous term of government to ensure the sustainable growth of Tasmania's $730 million world-class salmon industry. We are committed to maintaining, through strong independent regulation which is supported by many in the community, although not everyone, we accept.
It is important to remember - and I know it irritates the Greens to accept the fact - that it was this Government that transferred responsibility for the environmental regulation and management to the independent Environmental Protection Authority. It was this Government that increased penalties and improved regulations, created new statutory mechanisms as no- grow zones for excluding finfish marine farming from areas across the state's coastline. It is this Government that has developed a sustainable industry growth plan for the salmon industry which provides the blueprint for what is the biggest single primary industries sector in our state, and we are certainly working very hard to implement the plan.
With respect to Norfolk Bay, on 7 August last the department issued a short-term permit to enable fish harvesting at the Norfolk Bay site under provisions of the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995. I emphasise it is only a short-term permit that has been provided at Norfolk Bay to facilitate safe harvesting practices of fish grown in Storm Bay and for improved biosecurity risk management. The existing marine farming lease itself has not been activated and under legislative changes made last year under this Government, if there was any move to establish more permanent finfish marine farming operations in what is an existing marine farming lease area in Norfolk Bay, it would be subject to assessment by the Environment Protection Authority under the provisions of the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act. I note that Huon Aquaculture has clearly stated that it does not intend to farm permanently at Norfolk Bay.
That is a summary of the additional measures we have put in place, the processes required of our salmon industry, the importance we place on sustainable growth in environmental protections, as evidenced by those steps we have taken, and that also provides the member with a clear understanding of what is happening at Norfolk Bay. I utterly reject any attempted connection to what Ms Courtney has done in her time to support the growth of the salmon industry and our primary industries, with the support of her department and the assistance of independent authorities to ensure that decisions made by government are well established and sound, which they are. Minister Courtney has done that with the strong support of all her government colleagues.