Inland Barramundi Farming
INLAND BARRAMUNDI FARMING
Mr CRUICKSHANK (Murrumbidgee) [5.55]: I have spoken on this matter previously and it grieves me to have to speak twice within a couple of weeks about the barramundi fish farm at Grong Grong. I am wondering what is the agenda for this fish farm. When I raised the matter previously the Minister agreed with everything I said and everything the proprietor was saying. He said he would do his utmost to have a licence granted. He did that: he kept his word. Within a week the licences from New South Wales Fisheries and the Department of Water Resources were granted. But then the Environment Protection Authority decided that it had to stick its bib in. Now the licence has been delayed. As I explained previously, the family involved is losing $1,000 a week. If they had known of the obfuscation, the lies and the way in which the commercial and greenie groups would obstruct them, they would not have undertaken the project. In the four years I was in opposition coalition members said that there was nothing that the coalition was not going to do when it was elected to government. But it seems that there is a singular failure by Ministers to control agencies such as the EPA. Before it was the State Pollution Control Commission that we had problems with. We battled for 18 months over the Yanco feedlot. Finally the conditions now prevailing were agreed to.
People have had 10 months to determine what is in the water at the fish farm. We know that the water is dreadful: it is brackish and suitable only for growing fish in. The EPA says that there are not the legal requirements to assess and examine the water
for diseases and viruses that the fish may or may not have. I submit to the Minister that the owners should be able to start the farm. We should stop wasting money. The family should not have to go further into debt. The EPA can determine what diseases or viruses are in the water at any time. It is all-powerful and can do what it wants to do. The problem is only with the water. I believe there is another agenda involved. I believe the EPA is listening to people who have no right to be saying what they are saying. They are using scaremongering tactics and telling lies suggesting that eggs will be imported into the area. This is a total untruth. They are trying to cause a further delay. I do not believe this is what the Government wants.
Common sense from New South Wales Fisheries and the Department of Water Resources dictates that licences be granted. Nobody should object to that. There were problems previously with Minister Moore. I do not want to see such problems repeated now. During the battle over the Yanco feedlot we did our darnedest. Nobody told any untruths. The officials wanted to impose their conditions and we accepted them. The officers could have determined what conditions they wanted to impose in the 10-month period I mentioned. Unfortunately, local pressure groups of activists are becoming very angry because they see local organisations being threatened with legal action by other groups in an attempt to delay the establishment of the fish farm. I say the delay has gone on long enough. The delays are unnecessary. This is a healthy project which should be allowed to go ahead. I ask the Minister to grant the licence for the barramundi fish farm at Grong Grong.
Mr COLLINS (Willoughby - Minister for State Development, and Minister for Arts) [5.59]: The Minister for the Environment has given me some information which may be of assistance to the honourable member for Murrumbidgee regarding the barramundi fish farm at North Grong Grong. I am advised that under the Clean Waters Act 1970 the Minister for the Environment is obliged to consider the matter raised by the honourable member for Murrumbidgee. Part of the definition of "pollute" in that Act states:
The Environment Protection Authority has become involved in relation to the biological condition of the water. I am advised by the Minister for the Environment that the present position is that the EPA has now received from other relevant authorities, particularly New South Wales Fisheries, the technical advice needed to establish that effective controls can be applied. The EPA has been particularly concerned about the potential for environmental contamination by viral disease. Based on the specialist advice from New South Wales Fisheries and others, EPA officers are now drafting the intended licence conditions considered to be appropriate for control measures and monitoring. The EPA anticipates the licence being issued within about a week after the draft conditions have been checked for practicality and enforceability. The potential for destruction of the fish communities of inland rivers by disease, even if remote, is not a matter to be taken casually. The EPA is now satisfied that effective controls can be applied and therefore proposes to grant the licence.
(a) to place in or on, or otherwise introduce into or on to, the waters (through an act or omission) any matter, whether solid, liquid or gaseous, so that the physical, chemical or biological condition of the waters is changed; or