Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES, WATER and ENVIRONMENT, Ms COURTNEY
Norfolk Bay residents are outraged by two massive salmon pens sitting off Lime Bay that from tomorrow Huon Aquaculture will begin filling with potentially POMV-infected fish and harvesting on a boat between the evenings of Sunday to Thursday. This is on top of seagrass meadows, home to dolphins, migratory whales, threatened eagles, baby sharks and flathead and habitat for the critically endangered red handfish. It is a lease that has never held finfish, bought over a decade ago, and has been rushed through an internal development approval and an EPA sign-off. The licence to operate is contrary to your own draft regulations, which would require it to go to a full EPA board for proper assessment including public consultation and appeal rights.
How can you say that you are looking into people's concerns when this is the same bad industry practice that caused devastation in Macquarie Harbour, dumping fish into shallow, poorly flushed in-waters and not addressing the impacts on other people's livelihoods and lifestyles? Will you heed Tasman and southern beaches residents' concerns and rescind the lease approval?
Madam Speaker, it is interesting that despite an almost glimmer in the last session that the Greens may have supported the salmon industry, we are now back to where they were before - getting in there trying to destroy jobs in regional areas and trying to destroy economies and businesses that are sustainable. We have seen the Greens again conflating so many issues into one. We know that the Greens have come in here calling for better biosecurity practices across the salmon industry. That is what we are seeing here. This is the clear objective of the proposal we have here. Instead of embracing it, once again the Greens are simply trying to throw rocks and undermine business when we are looking to secure better biosecurity practices for the industry.
As a Government we have a proud history of strengthening the environmental regulations and practices for the industry. It was this Government that transferred responsibility for environmental regulation to the independent EPA. We have increased penalties for breaches of regulation, including a new statutory mechanism for excluding finfish marine farming from areas where -
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker, in terms of relevance. The question was specifically about Norfolk Bay, not a general comment about the whole salmon industry, but whether she will rescind the lease and listen to the residents' concerns.
Madam SPEAKER - The best I can do is ask the minister to consider that question and answer it as best she can.
Ms COURTNEY - No, I am not rescinding the lease because as a Government we support better biosecurity practices, working with the industry to have better environmental outcomes and we are supporting the salmon industry to grow jobs, particularly in regional areas.
We saw in Dr Woodruff’s question a spray of allegations about this facility. She talked about the handfish. If we get to the facts, the director of the EPA has advised that a detailed baseline environmental survey of the permit site area -
Dr Woodruff - But done by their own company, by Huon Aquaculture themselves.
Ms COURTNEY - Madam Speaker, I am directly responding to the concerns raised by the member and she is not even interested. It clearly shows that when it comes to salmon, all it is about is playing politics in this place. She does not actually care about the environment or hearing about the processes that are in place to get better outcomes.
With regard to the handfish that was raised by the member, the EPA has advised that a detailed baseline environmental survey of the permit site area has been completed. This included extensive survey work, including the underwater filming of the seabed at 42 sites within the permit area specifically in relation to handfish.
Dr Woodruff - Why didn't it go to the full board? That is your own draft regulations.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff, please.
Ms COURTNEY - I am advised that no species of handfish were detected at any of the sites following review of the video surveys by EPA Tasmania. We are taking measures, ensuring good environmental and biosecurity outcomes.
Dr Woodruff talked about orthomyxovirus and the impact on the environment. We know, and you know, Dr Woodruff, that POMV is an endemic disease in pilchards.
Dr Woodruff - Are you going to go to the public meetings?
Madam SPEAKER - Order. I am asking for no more interjections. Please proceed.
Ms COURTNEY - Thank you, Madam Speaker. We as a government have strengthened environmental regulations. We are helping to strengthen biosecurity across the salmon industry because we want a sustainable industry into the future. We understand and will listen to the concerns of the community and we have strengthened environmental regulation through the independent EPA. We will continue to work with industry and community groups because we want to see the salmon industry having a strong and sustainable future in Tasmania.